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WORLDS OF 

SCIENCE FICTION 



OCTOBER 1955 



35 CENTS 



^ ^OSTJVIEN 

ARTHUR SELLINGS • ALAN E. NOURSE^ ROBERT F. YOUNG 





RETURNING TO SPACE STATION— One of the moon shuttle-ships 
(see front cover and May 1 954 issue) is here shown leaving Moon 
for return to the space station, which is located outside gravita- 
tional pull of the Earth, for more freight. These cargo ships are 
built entirely on the space station and operate solely on this shuttle 
route. Navigating in a vacuum, the fins serve only as fuel tanks for 
control rockets and for landing gear mechanism. Some scientists 
contend that the sphere is the only practical design for a space 
ship — whether to the moon or anywhere else. 






WORLDS of SCIENCE FICTION 

OCTOBER 1955 
All Stories New and Complete 



Editor: JAMES L. QUINN 

Assist. Editors; EVE WULFF, ROBERT W. GREENE 
Art Editor; ED VALIGURSKY 



NOVELETTE 

THE ALMOST-MEN by living E. Cox, Jr. 2 

SHORT STORIES 

PRISONERS OF EARTH by Robert F. Young 38 

THE PROXIES by Arthur Sellings 48 

JUVENILE DELINQUENT by Edward W. Ludwig 64 

SLOW BURN by Henry Still 72 

LAST RITES by Charles Beaumont 88 

MEETING OF THE BOARD by Alan E. Nourse 99 

FEATURES 

WORTH aTING 47 

WHAT IS YOUR SCIENCE I.Q.? 112 

SCIENCE BRIEFS 113 

HUE AND CRY 117 



COYER: 

''Moon Cargo Ships" by Ed Voligursky 



IF is published bi-monthly by Quinn Publishing Company, Inc. Volume 5, No. €. 
Copyn^t 1955 by Quinn Pumisbing Co., Inc. OflBce of publication, 8 Ix>rd Street, 
Buffalo, New York. Entered as Second Class Matter at Post Office, Buffalo, New 
York. Subscription S3.50 for 12 issues in U.S. and Possessions; Canada $4 for 12 
issues; elsewhere $4.50. Allow four weeks for change of address. All stories appear- 
ing in this magazine are fiction; any similarity to actual persons is coinci^ntal. 
Not responsible for unsolicited artwork or manuscripts. 35c a copy. Printed in U.S.A. 

EDITORIAL AND BUSINESS OFFICES, KINGSTON, NEW YORK 

Next iuw on sale October 12 th 



All learning must begin with a need. And when the tried 



old ideas won’t work for a people — won’t conquer defeat 



and despair — a new way of thinking must be found . . . 



THE ALMOST-MEN 

BY IRVING E. COX, JR. 

Illustrated by Paul Orban 



H ands shook at his shoulder, 
dragging him awake. Lanny’s 
foster father was bent over him, 
whispering urgently, “Get up, boy. 
We have to leave.’’ 

Groggily Lanny pushed himself 
into a sitting position. He had been 
sleeping in his earth burrow beside 
Gill, outside Juan’s cottage. Hazily 
Lanny remembered being carried 
home from the canyon after the ex- 
plosion, but he could recall noth- 
ing else. 

It was an hour before dawn. Gill 
was dressing ; his shoulder was 
wrapped in a homespun bandage. 



Lanny got up, staggering a little, 
and helped his brother put on his 
leather jacket and his weapon belt. 
“Thanks, Lan,” his brother said. 
Lanny touched the bandage. 
“Shouldn’t you heal the cells. Gill?” 
“I have to expose it to the sim 
first. I didn’t catch it soon enough 
last night, and too many germs in- 
fested the wound.” To their foster 
father. Gill added, “I still think you 
should leave me here. I may not — ” 
“You’re both my responsibility,” 
Juan Pendillo ainswered. “We’ll sur- 
vive together. Gill, or die together.” 
“What happened?” Lanny asked 



2 




as he pulled on his breeches and 
pushed his stone knife and his 
wooden club through the loops of 
his weapon belt. 

Silently Juan pointed toward the 
dawn sky. High above them Lanny 
heard the whine of a score of enemy 
police spheres. “They insist on the 
surrender of all eight hunters who 
went out last night.'’ 

Gill said, “But Tak Laleen killed 
Barlow with her energy gun. Why 
are they blaming us?” 

“Barlow was working for them as 
a spy,” Lanny put in. It was a con- 
venient explanation, but vaguely he 
knew he was lying. He felt a pang of 
guilt, but he couldn’t understand 
why. What had he done that he 
should be ashamed of? 

What had happened last night? 
Lanny wracked his brain, trying to 
remember. 

Eight hunters had been sent out 
to bring in a cache of rifles which 
Lanny’s brother. Gill, had found in 
the rubble of Santa Barbara. It was 
risky business, because under the 
terms of the surrender treaty men 
were prohibited the use of all metals 
in the prison compounds. But the 
younger generation — boys like Lan- 
ny and Gill, born since the in- 
vasion — were more fiercely deter- 
mined to resist the Almost-men 
than their elders. Armed with fifty 
rifles, they thought they would be 
strong enough to attack the Chapel 
of the Triangle. 

The Almost-men : the children 
had coined the word, subtly assert- 
ing the pride of man. Yet they knew 
it was a semantic trick they played 
upon themselves. It changed noth- 




3 




ing. The conquerors were physical- 
ly identical to men; their enormous 
superiority was entirely technologi- 
cal. 

As the eight hunters crept toward 
the ruins of Santa Barbara, through 
a narrow canyon, old man Barlow 
suddenly emerged from the brush 
and stood grinning at them. It was 
his privilege to join the hunters; any 
citizen of the settlement could have 
done so. But the younger generation 
hated Barlow. He was the practical 
man; he called himself a realist. He 
never allowed them to forget they 
were defeated, imprisoned and 
without weapons; he took savage 
delight in poking holes in their 
plans for resistance. 

“What are you doing here?” 
Lanny’s brother demanded. 

“I came to watch the fun, Gill.” 
“We’re going to bring back fifty 
rifles; that’s all — ” 

“Right under the noses of our 
masters? Don’t be naive.” 

“There’s only one way the Al- 
most-men would find out — ” 
Barlow snorted. “Don’t think I 
ran to the Ghapel of the Triangle 
and told Tak Laleen what you were 
up to. They don’t need that sort of 
help from us. When are you going 
to get it through that thick skull of 
yours? We’re outclassed; we’re 
second-raters; we’ll never defeat 
them.” 

From the night sky they heard the 
low hum of a force-field car. An 
opalescent sphere soared above the 
canyon. Gill’s fist smadied into Bar- 
low’s jaw. 

“So you did tell her!” 

Barlow fell back against the can- 
yon wall, his mouth bleeding. 

4 



The sphere came to a graceful 
stop thii^ feet above the hunters 
and the de-grav platform lowered 
a woman toward the canyon. Sur- 
rounded by the faintly opaque cap- 
sule of her protective force-field, 
she moved toward them, a beauti- 
ful, dark-haired woman clothed in 
white. 

This was Tak Laleen, the alien 
missionary assigned to the Santa 
Barbara area. She lived in the 
Chapel of the Triangle. Under the 
terms of the surrender treaty, the 
missionaries of the Almost-men 
were guaranteed immunity to 
preach and work in the treaty 
areas. They were selfless, generous 
and kind, yet men abhorred them, 
for they represented the tangible 
power of the conqueror. 

Tak Laleen glided toward the 
hunters, forming the alien’s trian- 
gular sign of peace with her small, 
white fingers. “I come in peace, 
in the name of the All of the Uni- 
verse.” 

“We haven’t violated any regu- 
lation,” Gill snapped stiffly. 

Barlow sidled toward her. “Take 
me back to the Triangle,” he 
begged. “I’ll tell you — ” 

Gill’s fist lashed out again; Bar- 
low reeled under the blow. “We’re 
a legally elected punishment 
squad,” Gill lied. “This man has 
broken a community law.” 

“You don’t understand!” Barlow 
cried desperately. “They came to 
get—” 

The others hunters fell on him, 
pummeling him into silence. The 
violence sickened Lanny, yet what 
alternative did they have? Lanny 
raised his club. At the same time 



IRVING E. COX, JR. 




the missionary came closer to the 
mob, and his club touched her 
forced-field capsule. Normally the 
energy would have paralyzed him 
with pain. But his mind refused to 
accept the normal, and Lanny felt 
the same sort of integrated umty 
with the energy field that he had 
with his hunting club. Command 
over the matter structure of the 
field. The energy flowed into lus 
body and was absorbed, stored in 
an explosive concentration of 
power. 

For a moment the opaque cap- 
sule dimmed. Tak Laleen clenched 
her hand over her mouth and fled 
into her sphere. The car soared up 
above the canyon. 

Lanny swung his club again. 
Since Barlow must die, let him die 
quickly, without pain. Murder! — 
the accusation was a pang of agony 
in Lanny’s mind. This violated 
everything Juan had taught him. 
He was aware that he wanted Bar- 
low’s death not because the old man 
had tried to betray the hunters, but 
because Lanny could not answer 
Barlow’s poisonous despair in any 
other way. Lanny was ashamed. 
But who would know his real mo- 
tive if he killed Barlow now? Who 
— ^but himself? 

Lanny’s club touched Barlow’s 
chest. He felt a drain of energy, a 
disintegration of structure. The 
energy Lanny had absorbed from 
missionary’s force-field exploded in 
a fierce, white heat. Barlow crum- 
bled into dust. 

Lanny’s awareness of what he 
had done survived for a fraction of 
a second. He stood facing the ex- 
ploding light and waves of concus- 

THE ALMOST-MEN 



sion lashed at his body. A dark 
chaos, whipped into fury by a flood- 
tide of guilt, rocked his mind. He 
willed himself into unconsciousness, 
a bleak forgetfulness that sponged 
the guilt — ^and the truth — ^from his 
mind. 

And now he remembered noth- 
ing but the explosion and the quea- 
sy shadow of self-accusation. 

‘‘The settlement,” Juan Pendillo 
said to his sons, “is required to sur- 
render the hunters at dawn. That 
gives us forty-five minutes. We’re 
all heading for different treaty 
areas. We are to go to the San Fran- 
cisco colony.” 



T he three men slid along the 
street, clinging to the shadows. 
Twice they passed other hunters in 
flight, but no one spoke, for the 
enemy sound detectors on iht Chap- 
el of the Triangle were sensitive 
enough to pick up a whisper at a 
distance of half a mile. Lanny and 
Gill discarded their moccasins, in 
order to be more sure of their foot- 
ing. The moccasins were useless ex- 
cept as symbols of status. Juan Pen- 
dillo qualified to give the extra skins 
to his sons, since before the invasion 
he had been a Doctor of Philosophy, 
and the teachers had become the 
governing force in every treaty area. 

For two hours Pendillo and his 
foster sons walked north. Occasion- 
ally they saw enemy spheres over- 
head, but the ships never came 
closer. After they reached the coast, 
the pounding surf formed a protec- 
tive sound barrier when they talked. 
“How far is the San Francisco 



5 




treaty area?” Gill asked. 

“Three hundred miles, more or 
less,” Pendillo replied. 

“How many days?” Lanny in- 
quired. His father, like all the older 
survivors in the settlement, always 
spoke of distance in terms of miles 
— a word that was meaningless to 
the new generation. 

Pendillo laughed, with gentle bit- 
terness. “Once, Lanny, we might 
have made it by car in eight hours. 
Now? — I don’t know. The couriers 
sometimes do it in a week, when 
the weather is good. It will take us 
longer. I won’t be able — ” He cut 
himself short. “It’s funny, isn’t it? 
In the old days I used to gripe about 
the traffic; right now I’d give ten 
years of my life to see a Model-T 
again.” 

Gill ground his naked heel into 
the sand. “The Almost-men took 
everything from us. But we’re not 
licked. One of these days we’ll be 
strong enough — ” 

“As strong as their machines?” 
Lanny asked. 

Gill swung toward his brother 
angrily. “That’s Barlow’s kind of 
talk, Lan.” 

“The weapons and die machines 
of the Almost-men,” Pendillo said, 
“are more powerful than anything 
we ever had. Yet we must defeat 
them; we must make ourselves free 
again. And we shall; I have no 
doubt of it. Granted, we have no 
weapons like theirs, and no chance 
of building any. We still don’t re- 
sign ourselves to defeat. The tech- 
niques we used in the past failed; 
then we must find new ones. How? 
I don’t know. That’s the problem 
our generation leaves to yours. Men 

6 



live by their dreams; without them 
we are nothing.” 

The three men continued to 
move north along the beach until 
they came to the barrier that 
marked the northern boundary of 
the Santa Barbara treaty area. The 
barrier was a series of widely sepa- 
rated pylons marching across the 
land. Each pylon served as a pedes- 
tal for one of the enemy’s highly 
sensitive sound receptors and an 
automatic energy gun. Any sound 
detected within seventy feet of the 
border became instantly the focal 
point for a stabbing beam of disin- 
tegration. Yet men crossed the bar- 
riers at will. Couriers traveled freely 
from one treaty area to another, 
and hunters crossed the border be- 
cause the animal life in enemy ter- 
ritory was more prolific. 

They had two methods for pass- 
ing the pylon guns. Sometimes they 
swam to sea, circling the barrier be- 
yond the range of the sea-coast re- 
ceptors. The second technique, used 
by the inland hunters, was to con- 
fuse the listening machines. The 
hunters would hurl half a dozen 
stones into the barrier area. While 
the energy guns obediently disposed 
of the rolling rocks, the hunters 
sprinted across the forbidden 
ground before the guns could con- 
centrate upon the second target. 

Both Lanny and Gill preferred 
to run the guns. They enjoyed the 
risk of defying the enemy machines. 
But Dr. Pendillo shook his head. It 
meant sprinting a distance of a hun- 
dred yards in less than nine seconds 
— the time it took the guns to re- 
orient their target. 

“Before the invasion,” Pendillo 

IRVING E. COX, JR. 




explained, “the fastest man on 
Earth ran a hundred meters in a 
little over ten seconds. You boys are 
a new breed. You’ve been forced to 
adapt; I’m too old.” Pendillo’s eyes 
were suddenly serious. “Adapta- 
tion,” he repeated. “The possibili- 
ties are infinite for a man who is free 
from convention, free from the in- 
herited ideas of his past. That is the 
way we shall defeat the Almost- 
men. The human mind has an un- 
measured capacity for solving prob- 
lems — ^for pulling itself up by its 
bootstraps — so long as hope for a 
solution remains alive.” 

They passed the barrier by swim- 
ming a quarter of a mile to sea. 
They rested briefly when they re- 
turned to the beach. Then they re- 
sumed their march north again, 
through territory ceded to the ene- 
my. They stayed close to the beach, 
imtil their passage was barred by 
an increasmgly rocky coastline. 
Since they had seen no enemy po- 
lice spheres since they left the treaty 
area, Pendillo thought it was safe 
for them to use the highway which 
paralleled the beach. 

After nearly twenty years, the 
ribbon of asphalt was still in good 
repair. Occasional cracks had bro- 
ken the paving. Grass and weeds 
choked the crevices and some cul- 
verts had been washed out by 
spring rains. 

The primary change was envi- 
ronmental, but only Juan Pendil- 
lo was aware of that, for his sons 
took for granted the young forests 
diat crowded every hillside and 
the abundant wild game. With no 
more than a ten minute intemip- 

THE ALMOST-MEN 



tion in their march northward, 
Lanny and Gill ran down a rabbit 
and a pheasant, killing them with 
skillfully hurled stones — the tradi- 
tional weapons of the hunters. They 
cleaned the kill and strapped it to 
their weapon belts. 

Late in the afternoon they en- 
tered Santa Maria. The town had 
not been large, but it was the first 
relic of their defeated culture that 
Lanny and Gill had ever seen. 
Sometimes, when their hunting 
took them south, they saw the site 
of Los Angeles, but that told them 
nothing about the past, for it was a 
flat desert scrubbed clean of rubble 
to make room for an enemy sky- 
port. Santa Maria had survived the 
invasion, since it was too isolated 
from the major centers of popula- 
tion to have been a target of die 
enemy guns. 

Lanny and Gill stood in the emp- 
ty main street and looked with awe 
at the deserted stores. Some of the 
buildings were made of brick; some 
were actually two and three floors 
high. This must, surely, have been 
a great city of the old world. They 
had no point of reference but the 
monotonously identical houses of 
the subdivision which had become 
their treaty colony. Here the build- 
ings were all different and by that 
fact alone they seemed beautiful. 

Lanny and Gill stopped at each 
store window, to stare in wonder at 
the goods still on the shelves. In an 
automobile agency, a solitary sedan 
still stood, on deflated and frayed 
tires, in the center of the showroom 
floor. Here at last was visible proof 
that men had once built a machine 
technology. The automobile was as 

7 




big and as shiny, beneath its gen- 
eration of dust, as any of the spheres 
of the Almost-men. 

“Were they all like that?” Lanny 
asked in an awed whisper. 

“Fundamentally, yes,” Pendillo 
said. 

“And they moved over the roads 
faster than a deer!” Gill’s eyes glis- 
tened. “But where are the weapons, 
father?” 

“Our cars weren’t armed, Gill; 
we used them for pleasure. But 
don’t get me wrong. We had guns 
— ^vicious and terrible things; we 
were no more civilized than the 
Almost-men. Our weapons just 
weren’t the equal of theirs, so our 
civilization was destroyed.” 

“You’re saying the Almost-men 
are better — ” 

“No, Gill. The Almost-men are 
mirror images of ourselves — man at 
his worst. That’s why we under- 
stand each other so thoroughly,” 
Pendillo paused before he added, 
“And that’s why we can’t destroy 
them on their terms ; we must make 
our own.” 

They pushed open the door of the 
agency and went into the show- 
room. Hesitantly, like children with 
new Christmas toys, they ran their 
fingers over the dusty hood of the 
sedan. Lanny felt a strange, electric 
empathy as he touched the cold 
metal, as if it were a familiar part 
of himself. For a moment he saw 
in his mind the geometric structure 
of the alloy atoms, just as he could 
visualize Ae more complex cell 
make-up of his own body. Judging 
from the expression on Gill’s face, 
he guessed that his brother had per- 
ceived the same relationship. 

8 



“And the Almost-men took all 
this from us,” Gill said in a choked 
voice. “Why, Juan?” 

“In our wars among ourselves, 
we always had the same motivation. 
They came here for resources. 
Every skyport they have built on 
Earth continuously ships out tons 
of metal and chemicals — oil, coal, 
ores. On their home world the Al- 
most-men have exhausted their own 
resources; they must have ours to 
keep their mechanistic civilization 
going.” 

Juan opened a door at the rear 
of the showroom into a large, 
cement-floored garage. Except for 
three automobiles, abandoned 
twenty years before in various stages 
of repair, the room was empty. 
“We can spend the night here,” 
Pendillo decided. 

Lanny and Gill pried open the 
door at the back of the garage. Be- 
hind the building tangled shrubs 
and live oaks choked the half-mile 
shelf of land that separated Santa 
Maria from the coast. They found 
a ready supply of dry firewood un- 
der the trees. 

It was dusk. The setting sun was 
veiled in a mist. Fingers of fog 
reached hungrily for the warm 
earth, driven inland by the wind. 
Lanny and Gill would have been 
more comfortable outside. They 
were accustomed to the chilly night 
air. They could have burrowed 
sleeping troughs in the soil and re- 
stored their strength with earth 
energy. 

It had always puzzled them that 
the older survivors, like Juan, could 
not do the same. Pendillo’s genera- 
tion made very poor hunters, too, 

IRVING E. COX, JR, 




often dying of a wheezing sickness 
if they spent many nights on the 
trail. 

Pendillo’s sons carried wood into 
the garage, where Juan sat shiver- 
ing on a wooden bench with his 
rabbit-skin jacket hunched around 
his shoulders. Lanny and Gill 
stripped off their jerkins and gave 
them to their father. 

Pendillo’s sons were naked, then, 
except for their short, crudely cut 
breeches and their leather weapon 
belts. And only the belts, which 
held their stone knives and their 
clubs, would either of them have 
considered essential. The rest was 
superficial, a mark of status. In a 
general way Lanny and Gill 
were physically alike — sturdy, 
bronzed giants, like all the children 
who had survived in the treaty 
areas. They were both nineteen, 
or perhaps a little older. Dr. Pendil- 
lo had found them abandoned as 
he fled the final enemy attack. Gill’s 
hair was yellow and a pale beard 
was beginning to grow on his chin. 
Danny’s black hair curled in a tight, 
matted mane ; his beard was heavy, 
already covering much of his face 
and giving him a sinister, derelict 
appearance. Since metal was for- 
bidden in the prison compounds, no 
man was clean-shaven. After a 
fashion they did occasionally trim 
their hair, with treasured slivers of 
glass which foraging hunters 
brought back from the ruined cities. 

Lanny and Gill made fire in a 
rusted waste can. Pendillo watched 
them with admiration. That was 
another shortcoming in the older 
survivors that puzzled Lanny: they 
were very clumsy about producing 

THE ALMOST-MEN 



Are, and almost none of diem could 
hurl a stone accurately enough to 
kill an animal. Yet both skills, so 
essential to the hunters, had been 
taught the children by Aeir elders. 

On an improvised wooden spit 
Pendillo’s sons roasted the pheasant 
and the rabbit which they had 
killed that afternoon. The three 
men ate hungrily, Pendillo with a 
fastidiousness that secretly amused 
the bronzed giants who sat cross- 
legged beside him. Dr. Pendillo tore 
the meat daintly from the bones 
with his fingers; at intervals he 
wiped the grease from his lip with a 
comer of his jacket. 

Pendillo built a bed for himself 
from a pile of dry, rotting rags close 
to the fire. Lanny restoked the can 
with fresh wood so his father might 
be warm during the night. Then 
Pendillo’s sons spread dieir skins 
close to the open door, where they 
felt more at ease. 

Almost at once Lanny was asleep. 
It was an instinctive process of will. 
He ordered his body to rest, and it 
responded; just as he could be in- 
stantly awake and alert at any ener- 
gy change that indicated danger. 
He had never examined the process 
consciously, and he considered it 
in no way unusual; but he might 
have recalled, if he had pressed his 
memory back into his earliest child- 
hood, that it was part of a pattern 
Pendillo had taught his sons. 

There was a sputter of soimd. 
Lanny leap^ to his feet, his hand 
closing on his stone knife. He heard 
a ro^ of clanging metal in the auto- 
mobile showroom. Then silence. 

Lanny sprang through the open 
door. Dimly he saw Gill sitting in 

9 




the sedan, his hands gripping the 
wheel. 

“What happened?” 

“It started, Lanny. I just came in 
to look at it, to touch it again, 
and—” 

“So you made the motor turn 
over?” This came from Dr. Pendil- 
lo, who was feeling his way through 
the door behind Lanny. “How, 
Gill?” 

Gill slid out of the car, backing 
away from it. ‘T don’t know. I don’t 
know!” 

“You must. Gill.” 

“I got in. I was — I was pretend- 
ing it was before the invasion and 
I was driving the machine down 
the road. I could see the matter 
structure of the motor in my mind, 
and how the parts fit together. I 
must have touched the starter.” 

“After twenty years, the battery 
would be dead and the fuel would 
have evaporated. Tell me what you 
really did. Gill.” 

Gill clenched his fist against his 
mouth. “It seemed as if it were a 
part of me, like my hand. And then 
the machinery began to move, be- 
cause — ^because I wanted it to. 
Maybe there was some fuel left, 
father, and maybe — 

“Why are you afraid of the truth. 
Gill?” 

“People don’t run machines by 
wanting them to go!” 

“The thinking mind, my son, 
is capable of — ” Pendillo’s voice 
trailed off, for they all heard the 
sound outside — the high whine 
made by the force-field of an enemy 
sphere. 

Lanny darted to the showroom 
window. At the end of the street an 

10 



opalescent sphere was riding in the 
fog, three feet above the ground. 
Enemy police guards in protective 
capsules spilled through the open 
port, carrying energy guns slimg 
over their shoulders. 

“The Almost-men picked up the 
sound of the motor,” Pendillo 
gasped. 

Then he saw the woman in the 
white uniform of the Triangle. She 
stood at the port, spotlighted by the 
glow of blue light that came from 
within the ship. 

It was the missionary, Tak La- 
leen. 



F J THE street the tracer light be- 
gan to dart back and forth over 
the empty buildings, responding to 
the commands of the sound recep- 
tors. Lanny and Gill seized their 
father and plunged into the chok- 
ing darkness of the forest. Dead 
brush snapped. The tracer light 
swimg toward the trees, concentrat- 
ing with smug, mechanical self- 
assurance upon the place where the 
three men had been. Lying flat 
against the cold earth, they wormed 
their way foot by foot toward the 
coast. 

Behind them they saw the force- 
field capsules of six enemy guards 
floating above the trees. Strong trac- 
er lights danced over the upper 
branches, but the foliage was too 
dense for the light to penetrate to 
the ground. In their glowing bub- 
bles the enemy police swimg back 
and forth, trying to find a clearing 
in the brush. Two of them attempt- 
ed to force their way into the trees 
but their body capsules were too 

IRVING E. COX, JR. 




bulky; the force-field generated by 
the individual envelopes was not 
powerful enough to push through 
the gnarled branches. 

The three fugitives inched steadi- 
ly forward. The glow of tracer lights 
faded behind them. They could 
hear the wind above the trees and, 
far away, the sound of surf break- 
ing on the rocks. 

Juan Pendillo was shivering in 
the cold. His teeth began to chatter. 
Hastily his sons pressed his body be- 
tween theirs, shielding him from 
the cold and sharing their body 
energy until his trembling finally 
stopped. 

They heard a snapping sound in 
the brush. An enemy guard ap- 
peared suddenly. He had dissolved 
his force-field and he was walking 
warily on the wet earth. He held an 
energy gun cradled in his arms. 
The enemy walked with cat-like 
caution — ^but, in spite of himself, it 
was the amateur caution of a man 
who relied on the protective devices 
of a machine. 

Slowly Lanny’s lips twisted in a 
sneer. This was the enemy, heavily 
armed and invulnerable — ^but help- 
less without his mechanical gadgets. 
Lanny’s hand moved soundlessly 
over the ground. He grasped a 
stone. The enemy was less than 
twenty feet away; it was a target a 
child couldn’t miss. 

Lanny swung into a sitting posi- 
tion and simultaneously threw his 
stone. The guard dropped, a wound 
tom in his skull. Pendillo and his 
sons slid forward again. As they 
passed the dead Almost-man, Lan- 
ny worked the energy gun out of 
of the guard’s hands. 

THE ALMOST-MEN 



It took them an hour to reach 
the cliflFs overlooking the sea. They 
turned north again, seeking shelter 
among the rocks. And they came 
abruptly upon a wide, bowl-shaped 
cavity in the earth. Through the fog 
they saw the narrow passage be- 
tween the cavity and the sea. In the 
center of the sheltered, artificial 
pool a metal dome rose some fifty 
feet above the quiet water. The 
dome, protected by a force^field, 
was joined to the land by a catwalk. 
From its waterline a ridged, white 
tube snaked upward and disap- 
peared among the trees on the north 
bank of the pool. A repair barge 
swung at anchor under the catwalk. 
A towering pylon raised a sound 
receptor and an automatic energy 
gun high above the roof of the 
dome. 

Pendillo whispered, “Tliis must 
be one of their automatic mining 
operations. I’ve never seen one be- 
fore.” 

Gill replied, “Lanny and I have 
come upon lots of them in the hills. 
The domes run themselves. Some- 
times the Almost-men come and 
check over the machines; that’s 
what the barge is here for, I think.” 

“The domes dig out minerals or 
pump oil,” Lanny added, “and send 
it to the skyports through the white 
pipes. But you can never get close 
to them. The whole operation i^ 
protected by the energy guns.” 

“They have us pinned down 
here,” Gill said, “unless we can use 
that barge.” 

Lanny fingered the energy gim 
he had taken from the dead guard. 
“All we have to do is knock out the 
pylon.” He raised the weapon and 



11 




aimed it at the nest of delicate in- 
struments at the base of the pillar. 
He turned the firing dial. The Same 
knifed through the fog. The tower 
disintegrated in a blaze of dust. 

The three men slid down the rock 
^d plunged through the cold water 
toward the barge. In the night sky 
they heard the whine of an ap- 
proaching force-held car. 

They leaped aboard the barge, 
hauling Dr. Pendillo in after them. 
Gill knelt in front of the motor in 
the stern. Lanny watched the sky, 
with the energy gun clutched in his 
hand. He knew the charge in the 
chamber was nearly spent. There 
might be enough left to hold off the 
enemy for a moment, but certainly 
no longer. 

Frantically Gill turned the wheels 
until the motor stirred into life. As 
it did the glowing sphere swung 
down upon them. Lanny raised his 
gun and Sred. Fear projected some- 
thing of himself into the leaping 
charge of energy — a confusing sen- 
sation of screaming joy and chaotic 
horror that left his mind limp and 
numb. It seemed that he had ac- 
tually touched the force-Seld of the 
sphere; he was physically tearing 
apart the tense, strait-jacket of 
solidified energy. 

The sphere lurched upward and 
away into the night. As it did, the 
port broke open and a figure 
dropped toward the water. It was 
Tak Laleen. She reached for the 
tiny box fastened to her breast, try- 
ing to activate her protective force- 
field capsule. Lanny knew he had to 
stop her, or she might still be able 
to prevent their escape. 

He sprang into the water, claw- 

12 



ing for her feet as she fell toward 
him. She screamed and her screams 
died as he dragged her beneath the 
surface. He tore the box from her 
hands and let it fall. 

When they broke the surface, his 
hands were on her throat and all 
his lifelong hatred of the Almost- 
men was in his finger tips as he 
pressed his thumbs down upon her 
windpipe. Pendillo cried out, 

“Don’t kill her, Lanny! No man 
has ever taken one of the enemy 
alive.” 

Reluctantly Lanny relaxed 1^ 
grip. Tak Laleen screamed again 
and slapped her hands at his face. 
Abrubtly she paused and stared 
into his eyes. 

“You!” she gasped. “The black 
savage. No wonder my sphere — 
In the name of the All of the Uni- 
verse, kill me quickly! Kill me now, 
as civilized beings have a right to 
die — not your way. Not your way!” 

Then, for no reason Lanny could 
fathom, Tak Laleen fainted. 



S HELTERED BY the mist and 
the darkness, the stolen barge 
moved rapidly north along the 
coast. Tak Laleen lay unconscious 
in the bottom of the boat, wrapped 
in her white uniform; Pendillo sat 
shivering beside her. Lanny and 
Gill stood in the stem. Although the 
motor was controlled by an auto- 
matic navigator. Gill tore out the 
flimsy destination tape and guided 
the wheel manually. 

“Even this the Almost-men can’t 
do for themselves,” he remarked to 
his brother. 

“Do you suppose they really can’t 
IRVING E. COX, JR. 




read direction from the sun or the 
stars?” 

“All their brains are in their. ma- 
chines.” 

“And machines are nothing.” 

“Juan has always said that,” Gill 
said slowly. “It sounds logical and 
reasonable. But I don’t know what 
it means, Lanny!” 

For a long time they stood watch- 
ing the heaving shadow of the sea, 
each of them trying in his own way 
to make sense of the riddle. Sudden- 
ly the motor sputtered. Gill tinkered 
with the machine until it was purr- 
ing smoothly again. 

“The power cells are nearly emp- 
ty,” he said. “We’ll have to run the 
barge aground sometime tomorrow 
and start walking again.” 

“Yes, I know.” Lanny clenched 
his fist over his brother’s arm. “But 
how do we know it, Gill? How can 
we run this machine, when we have 
never seen it before?” 

Gill laughed uneasily. “Don’t for- 
get, before the invasion our people 
were pretty good at building ma- 
chines, too.” 

“That doesn’t answer the ques- 
tion, Gill. When I fired the energy 
gun, I felt as if it were a part of my- 
self — as if I knew all the cells in the 
metal just as I know my own.” 

“That happened to me when I 
sat in the automobile in the show- 
room.” 

“It scares me, Gill. I keep think- 
ing I should remember something 
but — 

“I was scared last night, too, be- 
cause I thought I’d made die motor 
go by forcing it to move with my 
mind. And that’s absurd. If we had 
that much control over machines. 



as we do over our himting clubs, 
how could the enemy ever have de- 
feated us?” 

Tak Laleen opened her eyes, 
then, and sat up stiffly. The wind 
struck her face and swept her hah 
back. Shivering, she pulled her uni- 
form tight around her throat. 

“Where are you taking me?” she 
demanded. 

“You’re our prisoner,” Lanny an- 
swered. 

“The Sacred Triangle will not 
pay ransom we volunteered to 
serve here on the earth; we knew 
the risks.” 

Lanny moved toward her. Fear- 
fully she slid away from him until 
her back was against the gunwale. 
“Don’t touch me!” she begged. 

He shrugged and dropped on the 
deck close to her feet. “When you 
came out of the Traingle to take 
care of our sick, you never were 
repulsed by — 

“Not the normal ones, no.” 

“Your aversion applies only to 
me?” 

“Don’t pretend.” She twisted her 
hands together. “What kind of a — 
a thing are you?” 

Juan Pendillo intervened, “We 
dragged you aboard rather uncere- 
moniously, Tak Laleen. Let me in- 
troduce my sons, Lanny and Gill.” 

“You’re lying. Where did you get 
the metals to make him?” 

Lanny stared at his father. “Is 
she — ^has her mind been affected — ” 

“All this beating around the bush 
is so foolish.” Suddenly she seized 
Lanny’s arm and dug her nails, like 
claws, into his skin. “But — ^but it is 
real! You’re not a machine.” Her 
eyes glazed and she fainted again. 



THE ALMOST-MBN 



13 




By dawn the motor of the barge 
was missing continuously and the 
speed had been reduced to a rela- 
tively slow forty knots. The sun 
rose, dispelling the fog, and the 
wind on the sea became a little 
warmer. Juan Pendillo tried to pace 
the tiny deck, flaying his arms to 
restore the circulation. Tak Laleen, 
having recovered from her second 
faint, sat brooding with her uniform 
clutched tightly over her throat. 

Periodically the missionary talked 
to Pendillo. She asked again and 
again what they were going to do 
with her. Either ransom or murder 
were the only possibilities that oc- 
curred to her. That point of view 
was a fair index to the attitude the 
Almost-men held toward the sur- 
vivors on the planet they had con- 
quered. Manlund they considered 
filthy, illiterate barbarians; the 
primitive squalor of the prison com- 
pounds was their proof. 

Lanny understood enough of the 
religion of the Triangle — that noble 
abstract of God which the enemy 
called the All of the Universe — to 
know why the conquerors had to 
use a semantic device to define 
their superiority. The Almost-men 
were a liberty-loving society. Their 
government decrees and their reli- 
gious poetry abounded with vivid 
words of freedom. They could not 
have maintained an integrated so- 
cial soul and enslaved a culture of 
their peers; therefore, they had to 
invent a verbal technique for reduc- 
ing man to the status of a savage. 

“As we have always done our- 
selves,” Pendillo told Lanny when 
he first became aware of the incon- 
sistency as a child. “But don’t con- 

14 



demn the enemy for it, my son. 
Words have the peculiar habit of 
becoming anything we want them 
to be. If we set our minds to it, we 
can make anything true. The Al- 
most-men are not merely alien in- 
vaders; they are like man himself — 
the most tragic distortion of our 
worst traits. Someday we shall make 
war on them, yes, but before we do 
we must learn how to conquer our- 
selves.” 

Early in the afternoon the power 
cells in the barge were exhausted. 
Gill drove the ship up on a desolate 
beach, at the place where Monterey 
had once stood. Nothing survived 
but an occasional piece of debris, 
buried in the drifted sand, for Mon- 
terey, close to a military camp, had 
been heavily bombed by the invad- 
ers. 

“We must find a place to camp,” 
Pendillo advised. “I don’t believe 
either Tak Laleen or I have the 
strength to go any farther today.” 

They found it necessary to hike 
eight miles north of Monterey be- 
fore they were beyond the area of 
total destruction. The ruins, scat- 
tered among the encroaching trees, 
became recognizable as skeletal rel- 
ics of things that might once have 
been homes. They found one frame 
cottage still whole because it had 
been built close to a hillside. The 
battered walls would provide shel- 
ter for Pendillo and the missionary. 
Further, the house had a stone fire- 
place where they could cook their 
food, and close by a shallow spring 
bubbled from the dark earth. 

Gill and Lanny trapped a deer 
and carried the carcass back to the 



IRVING E. COX, JR. 




cottage. Both Tak Laleen and Pen- 
dillo were struggling to make a fire. 
Lanny took over the chore and in 
seconds flames leaped through the 
dead brush heaped on the hearth. 
It had always puzzled him that Pen- 
dillo could have taught him the 
techniques, and still not be able to 
make the fire himself. Tak Laleen 
was just as helpless. Without their 
machines the Almost-men were 
nothing: again and again that be- 
came apparent. 

Gill stripped off the deer hide 
carefully so it could be made into a 
second jacket for Pendillo. While he 
stretched the skin the afternoon 
sun, Lanny turned the meat over 
the fire. When they began to eat, 
both Lanny and Gill were amused 
that Tak Laleen had manners as 
fastidious as Pendillo’s. The mis- 
sionary nibbled delicately at her 
food, as if she thought the grease 
would soil her lips. Afterward she 
and Pendillo washed in water which 
they heated over the fire. Pendillo’s 
sons stripped and swam in the 
ocean, as a man properly should to 
make himself clean. 

They made beds for their father 
and the missionary in front of the 
fire. Lanny and his brother would 
have been willing to continue the 
march north until nightfall; the 
food had restored their balance of 
energy, as it always did. But they 
knew the other two had to rest. 

Lanny and Gill dug burrows in 
the warm sand outside the cottage, 
where they felt more comfortable. 
They were consciously an integrat- 
ed part of their world, nurtured by 
the earth and the sun. To them it 
seemed absurd to build walls of 

THE ALMOST-MEN 



wood or stone to separate them- 
selves from a part of their own 
being. None of younger genera- 
tion had ever understood the need 
of their elders for artificial shelter. 
That feeling, too, was a product of 
of their education, though neither 
they nor their teachers grasped 
what it implied. The children of the 
prison camps lived in a new uni- 
verse, not yet defined. 

Lanny and Gill were immediate- 
ly asleep. It did not occur to them 
that Tak Laleen might try to es- 
cape. They assumed she had read 
the signs of the plentiful game in 
the forest: they were a long way 
from any enemy installation. 

Yet four hours later they were 
jerked awake by the sound of her 
screams, faint and terrified in the 
night shadows of the forest. They 
found her a thousand yards from 
the cottage. Her back was against a 
wall of boulders and with her frail, 
white hands she was trying to beat 
off a snarling cougar which had al- 
ready clawed her imiform to shreds. 



L anny drew his knife and 

I leaped at the animal. Gill threw 
a stone which might have broken 
the skull with bullet force, but at 
that moment the cougar whirled to- 
ward them. Its claw slashed at Lan- 
ny. He bent low, driving his knife 
upward. Momentum carried the big 
cat forward. As the tearing fiuy 
struck his chest, Lanny plunged his 
knife again into the thick hide. 

The cougar fell, writhing and 
howling. Gill smashed a broken 
tree limb into the yawning jaws, 
and the big cat died. Tak Laleen 

' 15 




stumbled toward them. She tried to 
speak. The words of gratitude 
choked in her throat and she 
fainted. 

Again! Lanny thought, with dis- 
gust. The Almost-men — or at least 
their missionary women — had a 
limited gamut of emotional reac- 
tions. It seemed an inadequate way 
to solve a problem. 

They left Tak Laleen where she 
lay. Gill expertly stripped off the 
skin of the animal they had killed, 
another hide they could fashion into 
a jacket for Juan Pendillo. Lanny 
had been superficially wounded — 
a long, shallow scratch across his 
chest. He examined it carefully, 
feeling through the severed body 
cells with his mind and directing the 
blood purifiers to seal off the few 
germ colonies which were present. 
When the skin seemed to require 
no healing exposure to the sun, he 
allowed the scratch to heal at once. 

Gill shouldered the cougar hide, 
still warm and dripping blood. Lan- 
ny picked up the missionary and 
they returned to the cottage. Tak 
Laleen’s uniform was tom and use- 
less, but the material was a tough 
plastic which had protected her 
from any serious wound. Her chest 
and arms were criss-crossed with 
scores of tiny abrasions. It puzzled 
Lanny that she had made no eflfort 
to repair her body. It occured to 
him, with something of a shock, 
that the Almost-men might use ma- 
chines to do that, too. 

Tak Laleen regained conscious- 
ness when Lanny put her on the bed 
in front of the fire. Pendillo tore off 
her battered uniform and bathed 
the scratches with hot water. 



“You saved me; you risked your 
own life!” She said it with a pecul- 
iar fervor. Lanny couldn’t under- 
stand why she thought an element 
of risk had been involved. A hunter 
with half his skill and experience 
could have done as much. 

“I won’t try to run away again,” 
she promised. Not much of a con- 
cession, Lanny thought, suppress- 
ing a grin. 

Pendillo said they would have to 
spend the next day in the cottage, 
to give the missionary a chance to 
rest. She was suffering, he said, 
from something he called shock. 
Precisely what that was neither of 
his sons knew, but they supposed it 
was an obscure ailment that beset 
the enemy. The more they learned 
about Tak Laleen, the stranger it 
seemed that such a weak people 
could have conquered the earth. 

During the interval of waiting, 
Lanny and Gill dried the two hides 
they had taken. They cut breeches 
and a jacket for Tak Laleen, to re- 
place the uniform she could no 
longer wear. 

After they resumed their trek 
north, it took them four days more 
to reach the pylon barrier south of 
the San Francisco treaty area. Tak 
Laleen became more and more ex- 
hausted. She shivered constantly in 
the cold air. Her nose began to run 
— a phenomenon Pendillo called a 
cold — and the wounds in her chest 
stubbornly refused to heal. When 
she saw the towered guns on the 
barrier, she dropped to the ground 
and wept hysterically. 

“We can’t pass that,” she whis- 
pered. 



16 



IRVING E. COX, JR. 




“If you’re afraid to run the 
guns,” Lanny told her, “we can 
swim around them.” 

“I don’t know how.” 

“There’s no other way into the 
treaty area,” Gill said brutally. 

She sniffled. “If I could just feel 
warm again — ^if you would build a 
fire and give me a chance to rest — 
“Not until we’re inside the bar- 
rier. The police would spot a fire 
out here.” 

Gill picked her up and began to 
carry her toward the beach. She 
screamed in terror and beat her fists 
against his naked back. When he 
did not stop, she cried out, 

“I can tell you how to break the 
circuit on the pylons!” 

Gill paused. “Yes?” 

“If we could knock out just one 
of the guns, we could walk through 
the barrier, couldn’t we?” 

Gill set her on her feet. She ran 
back to Lanny, stumbling over the 
rough ground and wiping her nose 
with the back of her hand. “Lanny, 
you and your brother can hit any- 
thing with a stone. Couldn’t you 
knock out the power unit in a py- 
lon?” 

“Sure, if we knew where it was. 
We’ve tried for years to find that 
out, but we can’t get close enough 
to examine the towers.” 

She pointed eagerly. “It’s the 
criss-crossed framework, just under 
the sound receptor at the top.” 
He measured the distance criti- 
cally. “It will take careful marks- 
manship to hit anything so small. 
Think we could do it. Gill?” 
“We’ll have to try; the lady’s 
afraid to get her feet wet.” 

Gill threw the first stone. It fell 



short of the target. The automatic 
energy guns swimg on the stone, 
efficiently disintegrating it before 
it touched the ground. Lanny tried; 
and his brother threw again. It was 
Lann/s fourth missile that struck 
the tiny mechanism. A puff of 
smoke fffled the air and the top of 
the pylon became a mass of twisted, 
metal girders. 

Lanny grinned at the missionary. 
She was a fool, he thought; for the 
sake of her own comfort, she had 
given away one of the most valuable 
secrets in the arsenal of enemy 
weapons. When the treaty areas 
knew it, the barriers would go 
down; men would be free when 
they chose. And Tak Laleen was so 
grateful to have escaped a cold 
swim in the sea, she seemed una- 
ware of the extent of her betrayal. 

They walked across the barren 
ground. The missionary clung with 
feverish hands to Lann/s arm. 
Half a mile beyond the barrier, they 
ascended a steep hill. From the 
crest they looked down upon the 
peninsula and the sprawling arms 
of the bay in the background. 

Except for the jumbled ruins of 
downtown San Francisco, at the 
point of the peninsula, the land 
from the ocean to the bay was 
crowded with closely packed rows 
of dwellings. Some were flat-roofed, 
whitewalled houses similar to the 
subdivision settlement where Lanny 
and Gill grew up. Others, built 
since the surrender, were ugly 
hovels made from clay and grass. 

The San Francisco treaty area 
was the largest on Earth, perhaps 
because it was the city where the 



THE ALMOST-MEN 



17 




invasion had begun. Lanny had air- 
ways known it was big, but he was 
awed to see so many men, so many 
of his own kind, assembled in one 
place. 

Across the bay, on a flat, white 
plain where Oakland had once 
stood, was the crowded, multi-tiered 
skyport of the enemy. From all the 
surrounding hills the pliable, white 
tubes poured an endless stream of 
resources into the port. Automatic 
machines, working ceaselessly day 
and night, loaded the plunder 
into machine-navigated, pilotless 
spheres; at five minute intervals an 
endless parade of spheres lifted from 
the field beyond the skyport and 
headed toward the stars, while a 
second parade of empties came in 
for a landing. 

From a distance the skyport, 
under its opalescent dome of a 
force-field, looked like an enormous 
spider with its sprawling, white 
tentacles clutching the green earth. 
The San Francisco skyport was the 
largest the enemy had built, and the 
seat of the territorial government 
they had set up to rule the captive 
planet. 

Grotesque relics of man’s bridges 
still spanned the bay and the Gold- 
en Gate; columns of rusted steel 
held up the graceful loops of a sin- 
gle, rusted cable. An enemy bridge, 
like a fairy highway supported by 
nearly invisible balloons of de-grav 
spheres, joined the skyport and the 
treaty area. 

As the three men and their cap- 
tive descended the hillside, they 
were stopped by four nearly naked 
youths who mounted guard on the 
southern fringe of the settlement. 

18 



Though still boys in their teens, 
they were physical giants like Lanny 
and Gill. Pendillo told the boys why 
they had fled from the Santa Bar- 
bara settlement; he asked to be 
taken to the home of Dr. Endhart. 
“Our chief teacher?” 

“Dr. Endhart and I are old 
friends. We knew each other be- 
fore the invasion.” 

One of the boys clapped Lanny 
on the back. “So you brought your 
woman with you; they must be 
snappy lookers down your way.” 
Tak Laleen shrank against Lan- 
ny’s side, holding his hand in terror, 
“Not much for size, though,” the 
boy added critically. “How much 
do you weigh, girl?” 

The boy put his arm around the 
missionary’s shoulder. She gave a 
squeal of fear and, in her eagerness 
to shrink still closer to Lanny, she 
forgot to hold her crudely cut jack- 
et closed across her breast. The 
hide fell free. The boy saw her 
white, scratched shoulder and her 
thin, frail arm. 

He whistled. “So you caught one 
of the Almost-men. A missionary? 
I never saw one without the uni- 
form. Let’s see the rest of it.” 

He snatched the jacket from Tak 
Laleen. She gave another wail and 
fainted. Lanny sighed and picked 
her up. 

“She has a habit of doing this,” 
he explained wearily. “She hasn’t 
pulled one for nearly four days; I 
guess this was overdue.” 

The boy inspected her with a 
sneer. “Scrawny, aren’t they?” 
“Take away their machines,” 
Lanny replied, “and this is all you 
have left.” 



IRVING E. COX, JR. 




L ANNY and his brother made 
I an easy adjustment to the new 
community. The social stratifica- 
tion was an uncomplicated division 
of men into three types: the teach- 
ers, the old ones who had survived 
the invasion, and the children who 
had grown up since the war — ^by far 
the largest group. The classification 
was logical and unobtrusive; it pro- 
duced no frustrating social pres- 
sures. Since the children had known 
no other form of society, they as- 
sumed that men had always organ- 
ized their culture with such under- 
standable simplicity. 

The chief occupation of the com- 
munity was always the education of 
the young. That, too, Lanny and 
Gill assumed to be the normal ac- 
tivity of man. The teachers were the 
real government of every treaty 
area.Their control was subtle, en- 
gineered through an unofficial — 
and illegal — ^representative body, 
usually called the resistance council. 

Since Pendillo had been a teach- 
er in his home settlement, he took 
up residence with Dr. Endhart. 
They kept Tak Laleen with them, 
a prisoner confined to the house. 
For nearly a week she lay on a pal- 
let suffering the miseries of a cold. 
Lanny knew that older survivors in 
every settlement sometimes had 
the same malady. Pendillo had 
taught his sons that sickness hap- 
pened because some of the survivors 
of the invasion had been so de- 
moralized by defeat they had lost 
the mental ability to control their 
own physical processes. But Tak 
Laleen was one of the conquerors; 
nothing had demoralized the Al- 
most-men. There was only one pos- 

THE ALMOST-MEN 



sible conclusion Lanny could reach: 
the invaders had never learned to 
control the energy imits in their 
body cells. 

A hunter’s assignment, Lanny 
found, was easier than it had been 
in the smaller Santa Barbara settle- 
ment. The Almost-men had set up 
a vast himting preserve north and 
east of the bay; it was kept well- 
stocked with game. There was no 
need for the hunting parties to 
break through the pylon barrier and 
raid territory ceded to the invaders* 
The hunters simply crossed the sky- 
port bridge, circled the opalescent 
dome, and entered the forest, where 
broad trails had been conveniently 
laid out under the trees. 

This generous provision came 
about because the enemy considered 
the San Francisco compound some- 
thing of a showplace, an experimen- 
tal laboratory for improving rela- 
tions with the conquered. A steady 
stream of tourists, sociologists, poli- 
ticians and religious leaders poured 
into the San Francisco skyport from 
the mechanized home world of the 
Almost-men. They came to satisfy 
their curiosity, to purchase tourist 
relics, to examine and sometimes 
criticize the occupation policy. 

Frequently, when Lanny was 
hunting in the forest, he saw Al- 
most-men who were recent arrivals 
in the skyport. Usually they floated 
above the trees in their individual, 
degravitized, force-field capsules, 
watching the hunt and eagerly re- 
cording the activity with their ex- 
pensive cameras. Sometimes they 
whipped up enough courage to des- 
cend to the forest trails and talk to 
their captives. 



19 




Several times Lanny was inter- 
viewed by the enemy, and slowly he 
began to flesh out a more realistic 
definition of the Almost-men. They 
were no longer a clear-cut symbol 
for something he hated, but sudden- 
ly more human and more under- 
standable. They were physically 
weak, just like the older survivors 
in the treaty settlements. They were 
timid and unsure of themselves. 
They were hopelessly caught in a 
mire of pretty words, which they 
seemed to believe themselves. And 
without their machines they were 
helpless. 

After Lanny and his brother had 
been in the San Francisco area for 
nearly two weeks, they were invited 
to a formal session of the local re- 
sistance council, where they were 
accepted as new citizens of the com- 
munity. The delegates met at night 
in the rubble of the old city. A nar- 
row passage tunneled through the 
ruins to an underground room 
which had once been the vault of a 
bank and had, therefore, survived 
the bombing and the slashing fire of 
the energy guns. 

Gill did not stay with his brother 
in the rear of the vault. Instead he 
joined the young hotheads who 
formed the war party in the local 
council. At home Gill had domi- 
nated the same element. 

The men in every treaty area 
were split between two points of 
view. One group wanted to organ- 
ize an immediate attack upon the 
invader, in spite of the inequality in 
arms. The others counciled caution, 
until they had the strength to strike 
a real blow to free the Earth. 



Since men had no weapons and 
no metals from which to make 
them, the obvious basis for any suc- 
cessful attack had to be a scheme 
for seizing arms from the enemy. 
“We can only destroy the Almost- 
men if we use their own machines.” 
Again and again the San Francisco 
war party repeated that fact; it 
seemed an argument so self-evident 
that it was beyond any rational 
challenge. “The machines have no 
intelligence, no sense of values; they 
will obey us just as readily as they 
obey the enemy.” 

“More so.” Gill spoke clear and 
loud, in crisp self-confidence. “I do 
not believe the enemy knows how 
to feel the structure of matter.” 
This statement created a minor 
sensation. The heads of the dele- 
gates turned slowly toward Gill. 
Gill was smiling, his mane of blond 
hair shimmering like gold in the 
flickering light. Lanny felt, as al- 
ways, a tremendous admiration for 
his brother. Gill was so sure of him- 
self, so certain that he was right. 
Gill’s mind would never have been 
plagued by shadowy fears he 
couldn’t understand. 

“I have seen an enemy bleed,” 
Gill went on. “They do not know 
how to heal a wound.” 

“That might be true of some,” 
one of delegates answered. “Some 
of our old ones have forgotten, too. 
But you spoke as if the individual 
community of cells could be extend- 
ed to include integration with all 
external matter.” 

“By touch; I have done it my- 
self.” 

“You mean the extension into 
the energy \mits of your hunting 

IRVING E. COX, JR. 



20 




club.” The delegate smiled depre* 
ciatingly. “We all imderstand that. 
But a wooden club was once a living 
thing. Community control over 
other forms of matter is entirely 
different.” 

“No, the machines respond the 
same way. I made a motor turn 
over, when it had been idle and 
without fuel for twenty years. It 
frightened me when it happened. 
The energy in the metal was some- 
thing new, and I couldn’t under- 
stand the structure at first. But I’ve 
thought about it since, and I’m 
sure — ” 

“We’ll look into the possibilities 
— after we capture the enemy ma- 
chines. Our problems at the mo- 
ment is to get the machines.” 

The delegates returned to their 
discussion. They had agreed, long 
ago, that the only way to attack the 
skyport was from inside the protec- 
tive, force-field dome. For years the 
Almost-men had tried to encourage 
trade between the skyport and the 
treaty area, and the resistance coun- 
cil had turned that to their advan- 
tage. 

Gradually they had increased the 
number of young men who went 
to the city with necklaces of animal 
teeth and meaningless gee-gaws for 
the tourist trade. The Almost-men 
had grown used to seeing a mob of 
men milling on the bridge and in 
the lower tiers of the city. The coun- 
cil had regularly altered the trad- 
ing parties, so that every man in 
the San Francisco colony had been 
under the dome half a dozen times. 
They knew their way around in the 
skyport; they knew the location of 
the power station and the city ar- 

THE ALMOST-MEN 



senal. When the attack came, fifty 
men in the city would seize the 
power plant and the rest would at- 
tempt to take the arsenal. 

One of the hotheads arose from 
his place beside Gill. “We have dis- 
cussed this and argued it for almost 
as long as I can remember,” he said. 
“There is nothing more to be said, 
for it or against it. Hasn’t the time 
come to take a vote?” 

A moderate protested mildly, 
“But have we weighed all the risks? 
If we make a mistake now — ” 

“Gan you suggest a better way to 
get weapons?” 

And the moderate admitted, 
“True, we can’t defeat the enemy 
unless we have weapons compara- 
ble to theirs.” 

It was the last gasp of an old ar- 
gument. Everything that could be 
said had already been said; every 
delegate knew both sides to the de- 
bate, and every delegate was driven 
by the same instinct to make a fight 
to reclaim his lost world. When the 
vote was counted, a majority of the 
council favored war. A committee 
was appointed to make the final dis- 
position of forces and to set the time 
for the attack. Lanny was not sur- 
prised when Gill was named a 
member of the commitee. 

On the afternoon following the 
meeting, Lanny was assigned to a 
group of traders so he might learn 
the geography of the skyport be- 
fore the attack. As the enemy capi- 
tal on Earth and a tourist attrac- 
tion, the San Francisco skyport was 
a miniature replica of an enemy 
city. Under the dome were tiers of 
streets and walkways, interwoven 



21 




in complex patterns, and the battle- 
ment spires of luxury hotels, thea- 
tres, cabarets, public ouildings. The 
streets overflowed with a flood of 
jangling traffic, and the air was 
filled with the well-to-do riding 
their de-grav cars in the enviable 
security of their private capsules. 

Lanny’s overall impression was a 
place of intolerable noise and glit- 
ter. The Almost-men seemed to 
make a fetish of their machines. 
They found it necessary to use their 
clattering vehicles even though 
their destination might be a build- 
ing only one tier away. The air un- 
der the dome was fetid with the 
stench of vehicle fuels. 

The trading area was confined to 
a small, metal-surfaced square on 
the lowest level of the city, close to 
the narrow, neutralized vent 
through the force-field dome. Tall 
buildings swarmed above the trad- 
ing booths, blotting out the sun. 
Lanny felt boxed in, imprisoned by 
the high walls, choked by the artifi- 
cial, filtered air. 

He sold a satisfactory quota of 
trade goods to the tourists who had 
adventured down to the booths. 
And he dutifully noted the location 
of the walkway to the power center 
and the arsenal. But he gave a sigh 
of relief when his duty was done 
and he was free to go back across 
the bridge to the treaty area. He 
filled his lungs with the crisp, damp 
air, unsterilized by the fans of the 
enemy city. How could the Almost- 
men survive, he wondered, how 
were they capable of clear-headed 
thinking, in such seething confu- 
sion? 

In the treaty areas, where men 



could put their naked feet upon 
the soil and feel the life-energy of 
the earth, where men breathed the 
fresh wind and held sovereignty 
over their environment — only there 
were men really free. Would he 
trade that for the city walls that 
blotted out the sun, and the monot- 
onous throbbing of machines? The 
victor was the slave; the conquered 
had found the road to liberty. For 
the first time in his life Lanny un- 
derstood the paradox. Stated in 
those terms, what did men actually 
have to fight for? 

As he always did when he had a 
problem, Lanny went to Juan Pen- 
dillo. It was late in the afternoon. 
Already the cooking fires were being 
lighted on the small rectangles of 
earth in front of the houses where 
the older survivors lived. But Pen- 
dillo and Dr. Endhart were still in- 
side, packing away the models 
which Endhart had used to teach 
his last class for the day. They 
usually waited for Lanny or Gill 
to make their night fire, since Pen- 
dillo’s sons did the work so effort- 
lessly. Tak Laleen was with the 
teachers. She sat on the only chair 
in the room, playing abstractly with 
one of Endhart’s teaching tools — a 
crude mock-up of the structure of 
a living energy unit. It was the 
same sort of learning-toy Lanny 
himself had been given when he 
was a child. 

Lanny burst in on them excited- 
ly. He began to talk at once, trying 
to put in words the conviction that 
had come to him as he stood on the 
bridge. Suddenly the words were 
gone. In his own mind it was clear 
enough, but how was he to explain 

IRVING E. COX, JR. 



22 




it? How could he tell them it would 
be self-destruction to capture the 
city of the Almost-men? 

^‘You wanted to talk to us?” Pen- 
dillo prompted him. 

“It — ^it’s this vote we’ve taken 
for war, father.” Lanny glanced at 
Tak Laleen. His father and End- 
hart smiled disarmingly. 

“You can talk quite freely,” End- 
hart said. “Tak Laleen knows the 
vote has been counted. She knows 
what it means.” 

“Unarmed men are going to at- 
tack the city,” the missionary said 
without expression. “You are very 
courageous people. But you are cer- 
tain you will win — against our ma* 
chines and our energy guns.” With 
a frown, she put aside the model 
she had been holding. Her face was 
drawn and tense; there was doubt 
and fear in her eyes. 

“Of course we’ll take the sky- 
port,” Lanny assured her. “That 
doesn’t worry me. It’s what happens 
afterward — what we do when we 
have your guns and your ma- 
chines.” 

Endhart and Pendillo exchanged 
glances, in subtle understanding. 
“The city will belong to us,” his fa- 
ther said. 

“Why do we want it? The city is 
a prison!” 

The eyes of the elders met again 
“We need guns to protect ourselves. 
Haven’t you always said that, Lan- 
ny? You’ve heard all the discussions 
in the council meetings.” 

“But do we, father? Answer me 
honestly.” 

“You can answer that better than 
I, my son.” 

T^ Laleen stood up, wringing 
THE ALMOST-MEN 



her hands. “You will face the force- 
field and o\ir guns — but you won- 
der if you need weapons.” With an 
effort she checked the hysterical 
laughter bubbling in her throat. 
“My people would say you had 
gone mad ; but who knows the 
meaning of madness?” 

Pendillo took the missionary’s 
hand firmly in his. “She’s tired, 
Lanny. Our ways are still new to 
her.” 

“And we’ve had her cooped up 
in the house too long,” Endhart 
added. 

Pendillo glanced sharply at his 
friend. Endhart nodded, “It is 
time,” he said cryptically. 

Pendillo turned toward his son. 
“A walk outside would do her good, 
Lanny.” 

“Is it safe?” 

“She won’t try to escape; you 
and I will go with her.” 

Pendillo led her toward the door. 
Her face glowed with hope. She 
glanced eagerly down the long 
street, lit by the evening fires. Lanny 
was sure she was looking for the 
nearest Chapel of the Triangle, cal- 
culating her chances of escape. She 
was the enemy. What reason did his 
father or Endhart have to trust her 
so blindly? 

At the door Pendillo turned for 
a moment toward Endhart. “You’ll 
make sure Gill knows?” 

“At the proper time; leave it to 
me. 

“Knows what?” Lanny de- 
manded. 

“That we may be a little late for 
dinner,” his father answered bland- 
ly. He nodded toward Tak Laleen 
and Lanny understood. 



23 




Lanny walked on one side of Tak 
Laleen and slid his arm firmly un- 
der hers. She kept running her 
fingers nervously over his arm. She 
tripped once, when her foot caught 
in a shallow hole; her nails tore a 
deep gash in Lanny’s flesh as he 
reached out to keep her from fall- 
ing. He healed the wound at once, 
except for a small area where the 
germ colony needed exposure to the 
life-energy of the sun. She looked 
at his arm. Her lips were trembling; 
her face was white. 

“So you can do it, Lanny.” 

For a moment he had forgotten 
her remarkable inability. “You 
mean the healing? All men do that; 
we always have. A rational mind 
controls the structure and energy 
of organized matter.” 

“I’ve listened to Dr. Endhart 
teaching that to the small children,” 
she replied. “It — ^it is difficult to 
believe.” She began to laugh again; 
waves of hysteria swept her body. 
“I’m sorry, Lanny. I’ve thought, 
sometimes, that I’m losing my mind. 
We’re never really certain of our- 
selves, are we? Two plus two 
doesn’t have to make four, I sup- 
pose ; it’s just more convenient when 
it does.” 

“I could show you how to heal 
yourself, Tak Laleen.” 

“Ever since I came here I’ve 
been learning, Lanny. But it does 
no good unless I’m willing to learn 
first. My mind is tied down by 
everything I already know. I can 
put my two and two together as 
ofl;en as I like, and I still come up 
with four. Any other answer is in- 
sanity.” 

Twice, as they walked through 



the streets, Pendillo took a turn 
which led toward one of the enemy 
chapels. Lanny swiftly guided the 
missionary in another direction. 
The third time they came upon the 
Chapel of the Triangle suddenly, 
and before he could pull Tak La- 
leen back she broke free and fled 
toward the glowing Triangle, crying 
for help in her native tongue. 

Lanny sprinted after her. Tak 
Laleen beat with her fists on the 
metal door. From the air above 
them came the high whine of a 
materializing force-field. Capsules 
swung down upon them. The mis- 
sionary was swallowed within the 
church. Lanny and his father were 
enveloped in a single bubble. 

It rose on an automatic beam 
and arched toward the skyport. In 
panic Lanny glanced down through 
the opalescent field at the settle- 
ment rolling by beneath them, and 
the choppy water of the bay, turned 
scarlet by the setting sun. Pendillo 
leaned calmly against the curved 
wall of their prison. 

“She betrayed us!” Lanny cried. 
“I expected her to, my son.” 
“You — ^you knew this would hap- 
pen?” 

“A teacher must sometimes con- 
trive a unique — and possibly pain- 
ful — learning situation. It’s one of 
the risks of our profession.” 

“Why, father? She’ll tell the Al- 
most-men about the attack on the 
skyport; she’ll tell them — ” 

Pendillo tapped the curved wall 
of force. “We’re in a tight spot, 
Lanny. It’s up to you to get us out 
— ^without a gun and without any of 
the enemy machines. All you have 
to work with are your brains and 

IRVING E. COX, JR. 



24 





what we’ve taught you for the past ished, Lanny — for all of you who 
twenty years. I think you can count are the new breed. Now start ap- 
on some help from Gill later on. plying what we think you know.” 
He’ll have to attack the skyport to- 
night, without working out all his 

fine plans for seizing the arsenal. A BRIEF time the prison 

And Gill won’t have any guns, -T sphere that held Lanny and 
either.” Juan Pendillo was suspended above 

“So you and Endhart planned the teeming tiers of skyport streets, 
this.” Enough time, Lanny guessed, for 

“That’s why I insisted on keep- the enemy to question Tak Laleen 
ing Tak Laleen alive. I thought we and to reach some decision based 
might need her as — as a catalyst, upon what she had to tell them. 
The vote of the resistance council Abruptly the capsule was hauled 
nished things a little, but on the down. Lanny and his father were 
whole I think it worked out quite dumped into barred cells buried 
satisfactorily. Your education is fin- somewhere in the bowels of the city. 

THE ALMOST-MEN 



25 



“What will they do with us?” 
Lanny asked. 

From the adjoining cell his father 
answered placidly, “It depends <mi 
T ak Laleen’s statement — and how 
much of it they believe.” 

“Will they condemn us to re- 
adjustment?” 

“Undoubtedly, unless you solve 
our problem first — and these bars 
seem thoroughly solid to me.” 
Lanny drew in his breath sharp- 
ly, suddenly afraid. “What’s it like, 
father — the readjustment?” 

“No one knows, really. A ma- 
chine tears your mind apart and 
puts it together again — differently.” 
Lanny shivered as he remem- 
bered the half-dozen readjustment 
cases he had seen in the Santa 
Barbara treaty area — ^living shells, 
with all initiative and individuality 
drained from their souls. He moved 
to the barred door of his cell. For 
a split-second of panic he seized the 
bars and futilely tried to pry them 
apart. Slowly edging into his con- 
sciousness came a vague awareness 
of the structural pattern of the 
energy units in the metal. It was 
the S2ime extension of his integrated 
community of cells which he had 
with his hunting club. His panic 
vanished; he felt a little ashamed 
because he had been afraid. It 
would be no problem to escape. 

He held the bars and allowed 
his mind to feel through the pat- 
tern of energy organization. The 
metal was very different from any 
of the familiar substances Lanny 
knew, but far less complex because 
the arrangement was so rigidly dis- 
ciplined. There were two things 
that Lanny might do. He could fit 

26 



the energy imits of his own body 
past the space intervals of the metaJ 
— ^in effect, passing through the 
metal barrier. But that would be 
slow and exacting work. It would 
require a considerable concentra- 
tion to move the specialized cells 
of his body across the metal maze. 
The second method was easier. As 
he extended his cerebral integration 
into the metal, he could rearrange 
the energy unit pattern. The bars 
should fragment and fall apart. 

Lanny was amazed how rapidly 
the change took place. Before he 
could adjust the pattern of more 
than half a dozen energy units, a 
chain reaction began. Lanny found 
he had to absorb an enormous flow 
of superfluous energy to prevent an 
explosion. 

As soon as he crossed into the 
corridor, watching photo-electric 
cells sent an alarm pulsing into the 
guard room on the tier above. The 
metal-walled corridor throbbed 
with the deafening cry of a siren. 

Lanny darted toward his father’s 
cell. “Hold the metal and make it 
over with your mind — ^just as we 
integrate with our clubs. It’s the 
same principal, father.” 

Pendillo shrugged. “I can’t, Lan- 
ny. I don’t know how.” 

Lanny had no time to weigh the 
significance of what his father said 
for the scream of the siren stopped 
and a guard appeared at the head 
of the corridor. The guard wrapped 
himself hastily in the shell of a 
force-field capsule. He fired his 
energy gun. The knife of flame 
arched through the corridor and 
struck Lanny’s face. His body re- 
acted instinctively, absorbing and 

IRVING E. COX, JR. 




storing part of the charge and re- 
constructing the rest so that it be- 
came a harmless combination of 
inert gasses. 

But as the blinding flame splashed 
bright in Lanny’s eyes — the way it 
had once before, when he murdered 
old Barlow — Lanny’s mind faced 
the traumatic shock of remember- 
ing. Lanny had murdered Barlow — 
he knew that, now — murdered him 
with a blaze of energy which he 
had stored when he brushed against 
the force-field capsule surrounding 
Tak Laleen. 

It was not the fact of murder that 
had clamped the strait jacket of 
forgetfulness on Lanny’s mind and 
allowed him to think Tak Laleen 
had killed Barlow. He had known, 
for one split-second, the full ma- 
turity of the education Pendillo had 
given his sons. Known it too soon, 
with too little preparation. Now he 
understood why he had felt 
ashamed, why he’d retreated de- 
liberately from the truth: because 
he had killed Barlow to resolve an 
old argument, not to be rid of a 
traitor. The method of murder had, 
ironically, given him the answer to 
Barlow’s poison of despair; but be- 
cause the two had happened simul- 
taneously, the emotional shock of 
one had affected the other. 

The bursting charge of energy 
washed away his absurdly exag- 
gerated sense of guilt. He achieved 
the mature integration he had lost 
before; his mind was whole again. 
The integration was nothing new — 
merely a restatement of what Pen- 
dillo had taught him, what all the 
treaty area teachers taught the new 
children. The mind of man could 

THE ALMOST-MEN 



control the energy structure of mat- 
ter. Pendillo called that rationality. 
But matter and energy were synony- 
mous. The teachers had implied 
that without teaching it directly. 
A mind that could heal a body 
wound was also able to control the 
energy blast from an enemy gun. 

From his father’s cell Lanny 
heard a stifled groan. He looked 
back. The bars of the cell had been 
twisted by the blast; Pendillo was 
badly hurt. His wounds seemed to 
be extensive, but Lanny was sure 
his father would heal himself 
quickly. 

Lanny sprang at the guard. The 
Almost-man had enough courage 
to hold his ground, still sure of his 
impregnable machines. He was aim- 
ing his energy gun again when 
Lanny touched the opalescent cap- 
sule. That, too, was nothing now; 
Lanny had found his way into the 
new world. The field of force was 
simply energy in another form. 
Lanny could have reshaped the 
field, intensified it, or dissolved it 
as he chose. 

He shattered the capsule, like a 
bubble of glass. He smashed the 
gun aside. The guard stood before 
him, stripped of his mechanical 
armor — a man, facing his enemy as 
a man. 

As the guard turned to run, 
Lanny reached out for him leisure- 
ly. Weakly the guard swung his fist 
at Lanny’s face. Lanny laughed 
and slapped at the ineffectual, 
white hand. The guard howled and 
clutched the broken fingers against 
his mouth. Desperately he lacked 
at Lanny with his metal-soled boots. 



27 




Lanny dodged. The unexpected 
momentum sent the guard reeling 
and he had no e£Scicnt capsule to 
hold him up. 

He sprawled on the metal floor 
close to his energy gun. He grasped 
for the weapon as Lanny leaped to- 
ward him. For one brief moment 
Lanny saw madness film his enemy’s 
eyes. Then the guard began to 
scream. He thrust the muzzle of 
the energy gun against his own 
chest and pressed the firing stud. 

Lanny turned away from the 
smoldering heap of charred flesh 
and went back to his father’s cell. 
He disorganized the energy units of 
the tormented knot of metal bars 
and knelt beside Pendillo. Lanny 
was amazed that his father had 
made no effort to heal his wounds. 
Juan was bleeding profusely; his 
eyes were glazed with pain. Lanny 
lifted Pendillo tenderly in his arms. 

“Father! You must begin the 
healing — ” 

“I do not know how, Lanny.” 

“All men control their own body 
cells!” 

“So you were taught, and what 
a man believes is true — ^for him.” 

Cautiously Lanny extended his 
energy integration into his father’s 
body. It was something he had 
never done before with a living 
man. The weak disorganization of 
cells frightened him. Clearly Pen- 
dillo was telling the truth; he was 
incapable of ordering his own heal- 
ing. Then how had he taught his 
sons so well, if he could not use the 
technique himself? 

Hesitantly Lanny released into 
his father’s body some of the energy 
he had stored. He wasn’t sure what 



the effect would be, but it seemed 
to help. Pendillo tried to smile ; his 
eyes became clearer. 

“Thanks, Lanny. But you can’t 
save me, my son. I’ve lost too much 
blood; I have too many internal in- 
juries.” 

“But you could do it for yourself. 
Father.” Lanny shook his head. “I 
don’t understand why — ” 

“You wouldn’t, Lanny. You’re 
Ae new breed.” 

“You say Aat so often.” 

“In my time Aat might have 
meant a new species — ^supermen we 
created by genetics in a biological 
laboratory. But we’ve done more 
Aan that. You aren’t freaks; you’re 
our children in every sense of Ae 
word. We have made you men; 
we’ve taught you how to think.” 
“You deliberately made us as we 
are?” 

“Every man who lived before 
your time was an Almost-man, 
Lanny. He had your same potential, 
but he hadn’t learned how to use 
it.” 

“How are we different?” 

Pendillo was seized with a sud- 
den spasm of coughing; blood 
trickled from his lips. Once again 
Lanny released a shock wave of 
energy into his father’s body, and 
Pendillo’s strengA was partially 
restored. 

“I will tell you as much as I can,” 
Pendillo promised, but his voice 
was no longer as clear as it had 
been. “I don’t have much time left. 
The idea for our new breed of men 
began at the time of Ae invasion. 
Lanny, there wasn’t much to choose 
from between our people and the 
enemy. Our cities were like Aeirs; 

IRVING E. COX, JR. 



28 




we were enslaved by machines — 
by the technological bric-a-brac of 
our culture — as they are. Only our 
science was different. We had ex- 
ploited the energy of coal and oil 
and water-power; we were begin- 
ning to accumulate a good deal of 
data about the basic atomic struc- 
ture of matter. 

“But we would have ridiculed 
any serious consideration of de- 
gravitation, or the magnetic energy 
of a field of force. These were the 
trappings of our escapist fiction, 
not of genuine science. We had a 
more or less closed field allowed to 
legitimate scientific research; any 
data beyond it was vigorously ig- 
nored. 

“Then, from nowhere, we were 
invaded and utterly defeated by an 
alien people who used the precise 
laws of science we had scorned. 
Furthermore, we saw them ridicule 
our principles as semi-religious 
rituals of a savage culture. In the 
invasion less than a tenth of man- 
kind survived. We were herded into 
the treaty areas, with no govern- 
ment and no real leadership. Some 
of us had been teachers before the 
war; the survivors looked to us to 
preserve the spirit and the ideals 
of man. 

“We had to make a selective 
choice, Lanny. We had no books, 
no written records, no way to pre- 
serve the whole of the past. The 
teachers in all the treaty areas 
quickly established contact by 
courier. The lesson of the invasion 
had taught us a great deal. Men 
had been imprisoned by one scien- 
tific dogma, which had produced a 
mechanized and neurotic world. 

THE ALMOST-MEN 



The Ahnost-men were trapped by 
another that had produced the 
same end result. 

“So we had our first objective: 
to teach our children the supreme 
dignity, the magnificent godliness, 
of the rational mind. We didn’t tell 
you what to think — which had been 
our mistake in the past — but simply 
the vital necessity of rational 
thought. We taught you that the 
mind was the integrating factor in 
the universe; everything else was 
chaos, without objectivity or direc- 
tion, until it was controlled by 
mind. After that, we jammed your 
brains with data from every field 
of knowledge that had ever been 
explored by man. That’s why we 
interchanged couriers so frequently. 
In our world we had been special- 
ists; we had to share the facts 
among ourselves so the new breed 
might have them all.” 

Far away they heard the dull 
thunder of an explosion. Lanny’s 
head jerked up. Pendillo coughed 
up blood again, but there was a sat- 
isfied smile on his lips. “That will 
be Gill and the boys from the treaty 
area,” he sighed. “Arriving right on 
schedule. We’ve forced them to at- 
tack the city without weapons; to 
survive, they’ll have to make the 
same mental reintegration that you 
did, Lanny.” 

“How could you have been so 
sure, father, that we would be able 
to — to handle the matter-energy 
imits the way we do?” 

“We weren’t, my son. We were 
sure of nothing. We only knew that 
you were the first generation whose 
minds had been set completely free. 
Nobody had done any of your 

29 




thinking for you. If any man is 
equipped to solve problems, you are 
— ^you of the new breed.’* 

“But why couldn’t you learn the 
same techniques yourselves? Why 
can’t you save yourself now, fa- 
ther?” 

“Because we belong in the old 
world. Because the technique is only 
an application of the data you 
know, Lanny ; that is something you 
have worked out for yourselves. We 
could give you the theory; we were 
incapable of following it through 
your minds.” 

Pendillo gasped painfully for 
breath. He clos^ his hand over his 
son’s. “The old survivors are still 
imprisoned by beliefs carried over 
from the world we lost. We teach, 
Lanny, but we cannot believe as 
you do, even when we see our own 
children — our own sons — His 
voice trailed away, and he slumped 
against Lann/s chest. 

A series of explosions rocked the 
metal walls; Pendillo opened his 
eyes again. His dying whisper was 
so soft, so twisted by pain, the words 
were almost inaudible. “One more 
thing, son. We did more — ^more 
than we thought. Don’t retreat to 
our world; make your own. With- 
out the machines and the city walls 
and the uproar — ” 

Juan Pendillo grasped his son’s 
hand. His fingers quivered for a 
moment of agony. And then he 
died. 



L anny stumbled away from 
the cell, his eyes dim with tears. 
The repetitive explosions continued 
outside in the domed city. Lanny 

30 



discovered the origin of the sound 
when he made his way up the in- 
cline to the upper level. The parade 
of gigantic freight spheres was 
swinging in from the void of night, 
but Ae port machines, which han- 
dled the landings, were idle. The 
spheres were crashing, one upon the 
other, into the field just beyond 
the city. From disengaged, plmble 
tubes, jerking with the spasmodic 
torment of mechanical chaos, the 
raw materials plundered from the 
earth poured out upon the ruin. 
Fire licked at the wreckage, probing 
hungrily toward the city of the 
Almost-men. 

Lanny ran through die deserted 
guard rooms. Beyond the walls he 
heard a babble of panic on the city 
streets. The first exit that he found 
led up to the second level, where 
no man had ever been. 

He emerged on an ornate bal- 
cony, which overlooked the square 
where the trading booths stood. 
The force dome that had sheltered 
the city was gone. Lanny could look 
up and see the stars — and the end- 
less parade of glowing freight 
spheres descending toward the 
earth. The air was clean, cold and 
wet with the sea mist. 

In a sense the depressing, stifling 
city he had seen that afternoon was 
already gone — except for the bleak 
walls and the clatter of machine 
sounds. And, in the agony of its 
death, the city noise had become 
the scream of mechanized madness. 
A seething mass of vehicles choked 
every tier, fighting for space, grind- 
ing each other into rubble. Vehicles 
careened from the upper roads and 
plunged into the mass beneath. 

IRVING E. COX, JR. 




At first it seemed a panic of 
machines. The people were trivial 
incidentals — bits of fluff which had 
been unfortunate enough to get 
in the way of the turning wheels. 
Then Lanny saw the walkaways, as 
crowded as the roads. A mass of 
humanity spewed through the doors 
of the luxury hotels, like run-off 
streams swelling the floodtide of a 
swollen river. Where were the Al- 
most-men going? How could they 
escape? They had given their will 
and initiative to their machines; 
they could do nothing to help them- 
selves. 

Lanny saw an occasional opales- 
cent bubble rise in the air. But 
inevitably, before it could move be- 
yond the city, a force of blazing 
energy shot up from the lowest tier 
and brought the capsule down. 
Here and there in the darkness 
Lanny saw the furious blast of an 
energy gun, probing futilely into the 
chaos. 

As the fire rose higher in the port 
wreckage, Lanny saw men fighting 
on the lower tier. They held the 
bridge and the trading square and 
they had taken the power center, 
which explained why the city was 
dark and why the force dome was 
gone. But they were still fighting 
to take the arsenal. A squad of 
guards held them off with energy 
guns ; the men fought back from the 
darkness with weapons they had 
captured elsewhere. 

Even now they hadn’t discovered 
the truth; they still feared the ene- 
my weapons. They still thought they 
must have guns of their own — 
machines of their own — in order to 
be free. Build your own world, Pen- 

THE ALMOST-MEN 



dillo had said; don’t go back to 
ours. 

Lanny pushed through the 
throng on the walkway, trying to 
find an incline to the lower tier. 
Once or twice people in the mob 
saw him, in the shuddering light 
reflected by the energy guns, and 
recognized him as a man — a, half- 
naked, black-bearded savage. They 
screamed in terror. 

This was the hour of man’s re- 
venge, yet Lanny felt an inexpressi- 
ble shame and sadness. Was this the 
way man’s cities had died a genera- 
tion ago, in a discord of mechanical 
sound, without courage and with- 
out dignity? 

At last he found the incline to the 
lower level. It was jammed with a 
mass of Almost-men, fighting and 
clawing their way down so they 
might flee into the hunting preserve 
beyond the city. The tide swept 
Lanny with it. At the foot of the in- 
cline he circled the arsenal to join 
the men, still confined in the trad- 
ing square. 

Gill was directing the fire of his 
men as they inched forward. He 
clapped Lanny on the back, grin- 
ning broadly. 

“I knew you’d get out, Lan. Is 
Juan all right?” 

“He’s dead. Gill. He was 
wounded and he didn’t know how 
to heal himself.” 

“He had to know, Lanny; he 
taught us.” 

“They all taught us. They made 
us — ” Lanny’s voice choked a little 
as he used his father’s familiar 
phrase. “ — a new breed. Gill, we’re 
acting like fools; we’re fighting for 



31 




something we don’t want or need.” 

“We have to have weapons, 
Lan.” 

“We need nothing but what 
we’ve been taught. The mind inter- 
prets and commands the chaos of 
the universe. Matter and energy are 
identical.” 

Lanny turned and walked, erect 
and unafraid, toward the arsenal. 
The energy fire from the guards’ 
guns struck him and exploded. He 
reorganized the pattern into harm- 
less components and stood waiting 
for the charge to die away. 

In a moment Gill was beside him, 
beaming with imderstanding as he 
met and transformed a second blast 
from the guns. “Of course matter 
and energy are the same!” he cried. 
“It should have been obvious to us. 
We have been prisoners twenty 
years for nothing.” 

“We needed those twenty years 
to discover our new world. We have 
only finished our education to- 
night.” 

As a third blast of energy came 
from the arsenal, other men slid 
out of the darkness and faced the 
guns. Lanny and Gill walked away, 
ignoring the screaming machines 
and the stabbing knives of fire. 

“Yesterday,” Gill said slowly, “if 
I had known that I could direct a 
flow of energy just as easily as I 
integrate with my hunting club, I 
would have stood here cheerfully 
and slaughtered the Almost-men, 
just to watch them die. Now, I’m 
sorry for them.” 

“There’s no reason why they 
must all die in panic. Gill. Isn’t 
there some way — ” 

Behind them they heard a burst 

32 



of ragged cheering. The arsenal 
guards, having seen their weapons 
fail, had deserted their posts and 
fled. Men stormed into the building, 
shattering the metal doors by re- 
organizing the energy structure. 
Slowly they wheeled out the great 
machines — the symbols of enemy 
power. 

“We fought for this,” one of the 
men said. “And now we have no 
use for them.” 

Gill called a meeting of the re- 
sistance coimcil in the deserted 
trading square, while the city 
around them throbbed in the chaos 
of disintegration. The men were en- 
tirely aware of the problem created 
by their liberation. The new breed 
was free, on the threshhold of a new 
and imexplored world. They could 
carry the message to other treaty 
areas; they could show other men 
the final lesson in reorientation. 
That much was simple. But what 
became of the enemy? 

“It would be absurd to kill them 
all,” Gill said. He added with un- 
conscious irony, “After all, they do 
know how to think on their own 
restricted level. They might be able, 
someday, to learn how to become 
civilized men.” 

“The worst of it,” one of the 
others pointed out, “is that their 
home world is bound to know some- 
thing’s wrong. The delivery of re- 
sources has already been inter- 
rupted. They will try to reconquer 
us. It doesn’t matter, particularly, 
but it might become a little tiresome 
after a while.” 

“Ever since I understood how 
this would end,” Lanny said, “I’ve 

IRVING E. COX, JR. 




been wondering if we couldn’t work 
out some way for them to keep the 
skyports just as they are. Let the 
Almost-men have our resources. 
They need them ; we don’t.” 

The council agreed to this with 
no debate. Lanny was delegated 
to find someone in authority in the 
skyport and offer him such a treaty. 
Lanny asked Gill to go with him. 
The others split into two groups, 
one to put out the fires and clear 
away the port wreckage; the sec- 
ond to herd the enemy refugees to- 
gether in the game preserve and 
protect them from the animals. 

Lanny and Gill pushed through 
the mob toward the upper levels of 
the city. The crowd had thinned 
considerably as more and more of 
the enemy fled into the forest. The 
brothers, barefoot giants, had an 
entirely unconscious arrogance in 
their stride. They passed the rows 
of luxury hotels and entered the 
government building. Here, ap- 
parently, there was an emergency 
source of power, for the corridor 
tubes glowed dimly with a sick, blue 
light. Room after room the brothers 
entered; they found no one — noth- 
ing but the disorderly debris of 
haste and panic. 

Methodically they worked their 
way to the top floor of the building. 
In a wing beyond the courtroom 
were the private quarters of the 
planetary governor. 

He sat waiting for them in his 
glass-paneled office overlooking the 
tiers of the city. He was a tall man, 
slightly stooped by age. He had put 
on the full, formal uniform of his 
office — a green plastic, ornamented 

THE ALMOST-MEN 



wiA a scarlet filagree and a chest 
stripe of jeweled medals. He was 
behind his desk with the wall be- 
hind him open upon the sky. 

“I expected a stampeding herd,” 
he said. 

“You knew we were coming?” 
Lanny asked. 

“It was obvious you’d try to force 
us to sign a new treaty.” 

“Call it a working agreement,” 
Gill suggested. “We intend to let 
you keep the — ” 

“You have panicked the city by 
taking advantage of our kindness. 
But you won’t pull this stunt again; 
I’ve already requested a stronger 
occupation force from parliament.” 

The governor stood up; he held 
an energy gun in his hand. “This 
frightens you, doesn’t it? You 
should have expected one of us to 
keep a level head. I’ve handled 
savages before. You’re very clever 
in creating believable illusions, par- 
ticularly when there seems to be 
some religious significance. I should 
have known it was a trick when 
you sent that addle-witted mission- 
ary back to us.” 

“Tak Laleen?” 

“Of course none of my men tell 
me what’s going on until it’s too 
late. They took her to the Triangle 
first. She talked to the priests, and 
they filled the city with all sorts of 
weird rumors about men who could 
control the energy pattern of mat- 
ter.” The governor’s lip curled; he 
nodded toward a side door. “She’s 
here now, under house arrest. She’ll 
be expelled from the territory on 
the first ship out after the port is 
reopened.” 

“She’s wasn’t lying,” Laimy said. 

33 




‘‘She understood more than we did 
ourselves. Maybe Juan told her — 
The governor laughed and mo- 
tioned with his gun. “Will you join 
her, or do you want to force me to 
spoil your pretty illusion?” 

Gill walked unhurriedly toward 
the desk. “You must listen to us. 
Fire the gun, if you insist on that 
much proof. We want to save your 
world, not destroy it.” 

The governor backed toward the 
open wall panel. “Stand where you 
are, or Til fire!” 

“Just give us a chance to ex- 
plain — 

“The whole business is drivel. 
Superstitious nonsense. No man can 
violate the established laws of 
science.” 

“Why not, since men made die 
laws originally?” 

The shell of dignity in the gover- 
nor’s manner began to crack away, 
revealing the naked hysteria that 
lay beneath. Gill moved again. The 
governor punched the firing stud of 
his energy gun. The fire lashed 
harmlessly at Gill’s chest 

“It’s a lie!” the governor 
screamed. He fired the gun again at 
Lanny; then at Gill. His mouth 
quivered with terror. He was an 
intelligent man; he looked upon the 
evidence of a fact that overturned 
everything he believed. In the 
clamor of a dying city, still throb- 
bing far below his open wall panel, 
he heard the testimony of the same 
discord. He lost his rational world 
in the chaos, and he hadn’t the 
ability to find another. 

For a moment the governor stood 
looking at the half-naked giants he 
had been unable to kill. Then he 



flimg the weapon away and leaped 
through the open panel into the 
mechanical clatter of the dying city. 

“Once I wouldn’t have cared,” 
Gill told his brother. “Now I do. 
Lanny, must we destroy their world 
in spite of ourselves?” 

They heard a faint voice behind 
them. “Not all of us, Gill.” The 
brothers turned. They saw Tak 
Laleen, dressed again in the white 
uniform of the missionary. She 
came slowly through the metal 
panel of a door. 

“You see, it is possible for us to 
learn,” she said when she stood 
within the room. “I have.” 

“Then all your people — 

“Not all of them. A few, if they’re 
fortunate.” 

“You did it, Tak Laleen; most of 
our older survivors haven’t.” 
“They watched you grow up. 
The change was so gradual, they 
weren’t aware of it. I fell into your 
hands at the moment when you 
were yourselves discovering your 
potential capabilities. I followed the 
three of you when you ran away 
from the sphere police in Santa 
Barbara. One of you had touched 
my force-field capsule and drained 
away its p>ower. I had to know how 
you did it. By intuition I guessed 
something very close to the truth, 
but even so it could have unhinged 
my mind if it hadn’t been for Juan 
Pendillo. He taught me what he 
had taught you — a new point of 
view, a new way of looking at the 
world. He was so gentle and so pa- 
tient, so easy to understand.” 

“And after all that, you ran away 
from the skyport and betrayed 
him.” 



34 



IRVING E. COX, JR. 




“It was a put up job.” She 
smiled. “Juan and I worked it out 
together. He wanted to force the 
city guards to attack the treaty 
area; but, if my people refused to 
believe what I told them, at least 
Gill would try to rescue his father 
and Lanny. We had to make the 
conflict begin before you were 
armed. If you won by using a ma- 
chine, you might put your faith in 
machines again instead of your- 
selves. It was a risk for Juan and 
myself, but more so for you. No one 
really knew what you might be able 
to do, or what your ultimate limita- 
tions were.” 

“There are none,” Gill said. 

“I know that now, because I’ve 
made the reorientation myself. I 
didn’t then. The rational mind is 
the only integrating factor in the 
chaos of the universe — ^Juan told 
me that. It is literally true. Mind 
creates the universe by interpreting 
it.” She put her hand in Lanny’s 
and looked up at the stars pattern- 
ing the void of night. “I wish I 
might say that to my people and 
have them understand; but the 
clatter of our machines closes us in. 
Our world will die in violence and 
madness, the way the skyport died 
tonight. We may be able to help 
the survivors afterward; we can do 
nothing now.” 

“But we must do it now,” Lanny 
persisted stubbornly. “We don’t 
want revenge, Tak Laleen; we’ve 
outgrown our reason for that.” 

“Can you teach my people any 
differently than you learned your- 
self? It took an invasion and twenty 
years of imprisonment before you 
were able to break free from your 

THE ALMOST-MEN 



old patterns of thinking.” 

“But you did it in a day.” 

“In the beginning, your teachers 
didn’t know what their goal was; 
they only knew they had a problem 
and it had to be solved. I came in 
at the end, when their job was near- 
ly finished and they were pretty 
sure where they were headed. 
That’s why it was so easy for me.” 
“And your world does that, too.” 
Gill fingered his lip. “The trou- 
ble is, Lanny, it isn’t simply a mat- 
ter of giving them the facts. To us 
they are obvious, but you saw what 
happened to the governor. How can 
we make a man believe a new truth, 
when it means giving up all the 
science he has always believed?” 
“We failed with the governor be- 
cause we threw the end result in 
his face without giving him a logical 
reason to accept it.” 

Tak Laleen shook her head. 
“And so we’re back where we 
started. We have to let my world 
fall apart before we can save it.” 
She moved impatiently toward the 
door. “This building is a tomb. I 
want to walk on the soil and smell 
the wind and taste the energy of the 
earth.” 

In an uncomfortable silence they 
left the government building. GiU 
integrated with the power in the 
lift, and they rode the elevator to 
the ground level. As the cage slid 
past the empty floors. Gill broke the 
silence abruptly. 

“If all we want is to prevent 
chaos on your world, Tak Laleen, 
it won’t be hard. We’ll just go 
through with the treaty we intended 
to offer to the governor. We can 

35 




put things back as they were and 
go on delivering resources to the 
Almost-men. The only people who 
know the truth will be our prison- 
ers. We can keep them out of sight 
and ourselves play at being Almost- 
men to satisfy any tourists who 
come to the skyport.” 

“We’ll have to do that for a 
while, until we work out something 
better; but it’s only a stopgap. We 
have a problem,” Lanny said dog- 
gedly. “We know it can be solved, 
because it has been for ourselves 
and for Tak Laleen. All we have 
to find is the method.” 

“Learning begins with a need,” 
the missionary said. “For you, it 
was twenty years of despair: in- 
vasion, humiliation, surrender. 
Your old ideas didn’t work. You 
either had to accept status as sec- 
ond-raters or work out a new way 
of thinking. As for me — ” She 
shrugged her shoulders. “I suppose 
I couldn’t help myself. I did try to 
run away, remember. I tried every 
possible answer in terms of our 
logic first. I even thought, for a 
while, that Lanny was a robot. Any- 
thing but the truth.” 

Gill asked, “When did you first 
begin to imderstand? What hap- 
pened diat made you willing to be- 
lieve the truth?” 

“It was an accumulation of many 
things, I suppose.” 

“That isn’t specific enough. 
There must have been one instant 
when you were willing to give up 
what you believed and start learn- 
ing something new.” 

“I don’t know when it was.” 
They left the government build- 
ing and walked through the lower 

36 



courtyards of the city. Groups of 
Almost-men were being herded 
back into the city from the game 
preserve. They clung together, 
hushed and terrified. The city lights 
were in working order once more 
and the flashing colors turned their 
faces into gargoyle masks. Three 
guards, in tom and bloodstained 
imiforms, stood looking at the ma- 
chines which men had hauled out 
of the arsenal. Suddenly one of the 
soldiers began to kick at an aban- 
doned gun, screaming in fury while 
tears of rage welled from his eyes. 

Lanny turned away. It was pain- 
fully embarrassing to watch the dis- 
solution of a human personality, 
even on the relatively immature 
level which the machine culture of 
the Almost-men had achieved. But 
as Tak Laleen watched the spec- 
tacle of childish rage, sudden hope 
blazed in her eyes. She grasped 
Lann/s arm. 

“He’s blaming the machine for 
our defeat,” she said. “Now I re- 
member what happened to me; 
now I know! When you were mn- 
ning away from Santa Maria, 
Lanny, you fired an energy gun at 
my sphere. It destroyed the force- 
field and I fell out of the port. I 
was terrified — ^not so much of you, 
but because my machine had failed. 
All night while I lay in the launch, 
I faced that awful nightmare. For 
the first time in my life, I began to 
doubt the system I had trusted. I 
lost faith in my own world. I felt 
a need for something else.” 

Lanny repeated slowly, “Loss of 
faith in the status quo — 

“Could we duplicate that for all 
your people, Tak Laleen?” Gill 

IRVING E. COX, JR. 




asked doubtfully. 

“Yes, I’m sure we could, Gill. 
We have a clue ; we know what has 
to be done. And we have an experi- 
mental laboratory.” The missionary 
nodded toward the mob of cring- 
ing Almost-men coming in from the 
preserve. “We have a city of people, 
disorganized by panic, with their 
faith in the machine already shat- 
tered. While we teach these people 
how to make the reorientation, we’ll 
learn the methods that will work 
most effectively with my world.” 

They left the city and began to 
cross the bridge toward the treaty 
area. Tak Laleen passed her arms 
through theirs. She said, with sor- 
row in her voice, “No matter what 
we do, no matter how carefully we 
try to cushion the panic, we still 
have no way of being entirely sure 
of the results. Something that works 
with our prisoners or with us might 
destroy my world; it could send a 
planet into mass paranoia.” 

“That risk is implied in all learn- 
ing, Tak Laleen,” Lanny answered. 
“We can never escape it. I’m not 
sure we ought to try. The individual 
who lives in a closed world of abso- 
lutes — shut in by prison walls of his 
own mind — ^is already insane. The 



sudden development of a new idea 
simply makes the condition ap- 
parent.” 

“In a sense,” Gill added, “there is 
no such thing as a teacher. There 
are people who expose us to data 
and try to demonstrate some tech- 
niques we can use, but any learn- 
ing that goes on must come from 
within ourselves.” 

“We will develop the most effec- 
tive method we can,” Lanny said. 
“Then we will apply it to your 
world, Tak Laleen. The rest is up 
to them. That’s as it should be — as 
it must be.” 

Arm in arm they crossed the 
bridge — ^two men and a missionary 
from an alien world. They had been 
enemies, but during a night of 
chaos and death they had learned 
to become men — the first men to 
catch the vision of the new world of 
the mind. Each of them was soberly 
aware that the discovery was not 
an end, but a beginning. And they 
faced that beginning with neither 
fear nor regret, because they had 
the confidence that comes of matur- 
ity. The unknown was not a god- 
power or a devil-power, but a prob- 
lem to be solved by the skill of a 
rational mind. • • • 



Only an expert in the vast literature of science can tell whether 
an alleged discovery is new, only critical repetition can establish 
its truth, and time ^one can measure its worth. — Ernest Borek 

Doing a thing ... is very different from knowing how and 
why you do it. Only as we learn the reasons why, does real prog- 
ress begin; and for these reasons we must look to science as de- 
veloped by research. — Dr, Arthur Dehon Little 

THE ALMOST-MEN 



37 




Beautiful Karen, who had fled the shackles of Earth, once had 



written: “We shall never leave Earth as long as we 
compute escape velocity in miles per hour . . ” 



PRISONERS OF EARTH 



BY ROBERT F. YOUNG 



Guildenstern: Prison^ my lord? 

Hamlet: Denmark's a prison, 

Rosencrantz: Then is the world one, 

Hamlet: A goodly one, in which there are many con- 
fines, wards, and dungeons, Denmark being one o* 
the worst, 

Rosencrantz: We think not so, my lord, 

Hamlet: Why, then, ^t is none to you; for there is noth- 
ing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. To 
me it is a prison. 



38 



(HAMLET: Act II, Scene 2) 




I T WAS a country of blue lakes — 
the Misseros d^n Gaedo region of 
Altair 12. There were little lakes 
and big lakes and middle-sized lakes 
scattered like sapphire dewdrops 
over a tableland verdant with forest. 
Some of the lakes had small green 
islands in them and it was on one 
of these islands that Larry saw the 
second native village. 

He brought the little flier down, 
circling several times before he de- 
posited it gently on the water. Then 



he retracted the swallow-wings and 
started taxiing toward the shore. 
He had a feeling that this, surely, 
was the right place. 

It had the right look — the odd, 
pathetic aspect all the other places 
had had in one way or another. 

The pink, spherical houses, 
perched absurdly on gangling stilts, 
came right down to the water’s 
edge, and the village street de- 
bouched on the beach. If you could 
call the meandering aisle between 



Illustrated by Ed Emsh 




the houses a street In any event it 
sufficed for one, and it was filled 
now with the people of the village. 

They came down to the lake to 
greet him. The quaint people, the 
grown-up little boy and girl people 
who, in the premeditated phrasec^- 
ogy of the Altair travelogue, 
“played at being adults in their sim- 
ple paradise of fish and fruits and 
little isosceles triangles of vegetable 
gardens.” 

Larry eased the flier between two 
cluttered fishing rafts, running its 
prow into the soft beach sand. He 
locked the controls and climbed 
out. The village chief walked down 
to the water^s edge to receive him. 

“Welcome to my country,” the 
chief said in standard Galactia, He 
bowed ceremoniously. In the eyes 
of his people he was far from yoimg, 
but in Larr/s eyes he was a little 
boy with a fat man’s body. He had 
a large cherubic face — a small pink 
mouffi, chubby beardless cheeks, 
and enormous blue eyes. His hair 
was light brown, and there was a 
startling cowlick protruding over 
his forehead like the visor of a base- 
ball cap. He was clad, as were all 
his subjects, in a gaudy thigh-length 
skirt, and he wore a fresh lei of iliao 
flowers around his neck. 

Larry imitated the bow, feeling 
ludicrous. “Thank you,” he said. 
He surveyed the crowded street, 
looking over the chiefs shoulder. 
But all he saw were baby faces and 
rotund bodies, and no familiar face 
with delicate features and haunted 
blue eyes, no graceful shoulders . . . 
But that didn’t necessarily prove 
that this was the wrong village. 
Karen didn’t care for crowds, not 

40 



even crowds that gathered to wel- 
come her own husband. If he knew 
her at all she had probably fled into 
the forest the moment she had seen 
the approaching flier and now was 
sitting by some quiet stream, com- 
posing introvert verse. . . . 

The chief had begun his well- 
rehearsed welcome speech. “ — ^for 
the duration of your visit,” he was 
saying, “let my country be your 
countiy. Let my subjects be your 
subjects, and I, the chief, shall be 
your subject also—” 

The traditional snowjob, Larry 
thought. To how many hungry-eyed 
tourists had he already delivered it? 
Tourists with blue lakes in their 
eyes and with little office cubicles 
crammed into the backs of dieir 
minds. If I were a tourist I’ll bet it 
would sound terrific to me, too, he 
thought. I’ll bet when he came to 
the part about the rent it wouldn’t 
even disillusion me, that even then 
I’d be too blind to see the credit 
signs in his baby-blue eyes. 

But tourists didn’t mind being 
duped. They came to the Misseros 
d*n Gaedo region to fish and to 
hunt, to relax in an uncomplicated 
milieu; they didn’t come to look 
for their wives. They’d had sense 
enough to marry emotionally stable 
women. Stolid women, unimagina- 
tive women — 

“There is, of course,” the chief 
said, “a small fee which we are re- 
quired to ask for our hospitality. 
Probably you are familiar with the 
ruling of the Altair council in this 
respect. Having to ask payment for 
services which, in happier circum- 
stances, I would gladly render free, 
is a source of extreme humiliation 



ROBERT F. YOUNG 




to me, but I have no choice.” 

Larry already had his credit book 
in his hand. “I don’t know exactly 
how long I’ll be here,” he said. 
“Perhaps a week — ” 

The chiefs blue eyes were guile- 
less. “Our weekly rate is fifty 
credits,” he said. “Payable in ad- 
vance.” 

The robber! Larry thought, tear- 
ing out five crisp tens. The first vil- 
lage had only asked thirty-five, anc^ 
that had been exorbitant enough. 
He hadn’t had to pay then, though. 
One glance around had told him 
Karen wasn’t there. Somehow, after 
years of weary searching and find- 
ing, you knew instinctively where 
to look; you sensed just ihe kind 
of mise en seine that would appeal 
to her. You could tell by the ex- 
pressions on the people’s faces, by 
the architecture of the houses, by 
the contour of the land. One glance 
had been enough and he had reen- 
tered the flier and lifted swiftly 
above the disappointed natives, and 
presently he had found this village. 
And this village looked right, this 
village could be the one — 

And if it was, fifty credits was 
certainly cheap enough, he ration- 
alized. Finding Karen was worth 
more than fifty credits any day. He 
handed the five tens to the chief 
and returned to the flier for his kit. 
By the time he returned to the 
beach the chief had already selected 
a “companion” for him and was 
walking back up the village street. 
The crowd, its duty done, was list- 
lessly dispersing. 

Larry’s “companion” was a 
buxom doll of a girl with a rosebud 
mouth, big blue eyes, and frizzly 

PRISONERS OF EARTH 



straw-colored hair. She took his kit 
and led the way up the street. 
There was a shed-like structure that 
resembled a primitive warehouse 
standing on the beach. But Larry 
knew it wasn’t a warehouse, and 
when they passed it he identified 
the muffled sound that emanated 
from its interior as the smooth hum 
of a modem generator. He identi- 
fied the vine-like cables that over- 
hung the street for what they really 
were too— electric wires. 

Multi-colored honeysuckle 
wound riotously around the stilts of 
the houses, but looking closely he 
saw the glint, here and there, of a 
copper pipe, and he knew that 
primitive Aough the houses might 
be in outward respects they at least 
had running water and other mod- 
em conveniences. 

They also contained some form 
of television receivers. The animal 
shapes of the antennae on their 
rooftops might convince the or- 
dinary tourist that all he was seeing 
was a kind of cultural religious sym- 
bol, but Larry wasn’t an ordinary 
tourist. He wondered cynically what 
ancient vintage of film entertain- 
ment the Interstellar Mass Media 
Board had alloted Altair 12. Then 
he saw a group of native children 
playing in the nearby forest and 
he realized the nature of the game 
they were engaged in. The hoary 
“bang-bang” of the pre-space 
“caters” resounded incongruously 
among the idyllic trees as baby 
faced cowboys loped ecstatically 
about on imaginary steeds. Hop- 
along Cassidy rides again, Larry 
thought, and marveled at his own 
apostasy. 



41 




The trouble with him was that he 
had seen too many converted cul- 
tures. Searching for Karen on so 
many out-of-the-way planets had 
made him hypercritical, in spite of 
himself, of the repetitious puppet 
dances of inferior civilizations. And 
when the dance was deliberately 
concealed behind simple, non-tech- 
nological exteriors in order to lure 
vacationists from Earth and the 
other technologically advanced 
planets, there was something snide 
about it, something obscene. . . . 

His “companion” had halted be- 
fore one of the houses and was 
regarding him with mundane baby- 
blue eyes. He concluded that it was 
the one the chief had assigned him. 
It , was no different from the other 
houses except that it really was 
what it purported to be : there were 
no water pipes hidden in its honey- 
suckle and the metallic animal de- 
sign on its rooftop was just that. 

“You is mayhap tired?” the girl 
asked in pidgin Galactia. 

Larry was more than tired. He 
was exhausted. It had been more 
than twenty standard hours since 
he had left the Altair 12 consulate. 
But he shook his head. He took his 
kit from the girl, climbed high 
enough on the climbing pole so that 
he could shove it through the door, 
then returned to the street. He 
pulled his credit book from his 
pocket and riffled its crisp pages. 

“Am looking for Earth lady, 
beautiful Earth lady,” he said. 
“You have mayhap seen?” 

The blue eyes were mesmerized 
by the green blur of the pages. 
“Beautiful Earth lady? How is lady 
look?” 

42 



“Lady very very beautiful.” He 
had trouble keeping his voice 
steady. “Have hair like sun, eyes 
like sky. Like to walk in woods. 
Very much like to walk in woods — ” 
He paused. The big blue eyes 
had risen from the credit book. 
They were filled with wonderment 
first, and then disbelief. Finally the 
disbelief faded and amusement took 
its place. A grimy hand covered the 
rosebud mouth, stifling a giggle. 

Larry felt like slapping her. He 
controlled himself with an effort 
and riffled the credit book again. 
“You have seen lady?” 

“Have seen many times. Crazy 
lady. Walk in woods, look at flow- 
ers, birds. Make funny marks in 
wrong color credit book.” 

Larry sighed. It was the right 
place all right. There hadn’t really 
been any doubt in his mind since 
the moment he had first glimpsed 
the village. “Where lady now?” 
“Not know. Think mayhap live 
at Mission. Not see many days 
now.” 

“Where Mission?” 

“Mission on big hill, center of 
island.” Keeping one blue eye on 
the credit book, she pointed up the 
street to where the houses petered 
out into the forest. “Walk through 
woods, come to creek. Follow creek 
back.” 

Larry nodded. Then, reluctantly, 
he tore a five from the book and 
laid it on the outstretched hand 
that suddenly appeared before him. 
“Here,” he said, “go buy yourself 
some electrical appliances.” 

He turned abruptly and started 
up the path that led through the 
woods to the Mission beyond. 

ROBERT F. YOUNG 




I T WAS Karen’s type of forest — 
charming little trees, sudden 
clearings filled with unexpected 
flowers, birds like winged bliu*s of 
color . . . Larry W2dked ^ong slowly, 
bending his head sometimes to 
avoid the low branches of the trees. 
It was almost impossible not to pic- 
ture her strolling dreamily through 
the enchanted aisles, curling up in 
some sequestered bower to jot down 
wisps of verse in the little notebook 
she always carried — 

And such verse! Larry shook his 
head. He had never imderstood it 
and he never would. Not that he 
hadn’t tried. But how could you 
understand outrageous outpourings 
like — 

— the cold touch of doubt upon you 
in the evening 

and the falling to Earth of stars, 
each burning infinitesimally in the 
little night, 
abruptly microcosmic, 
its hauteur gone, 

a pitiful cinder beneath the scuffed 
shoes of man . . . 



or — 



we have converted the souls of 
mountains into shining ships, 
and yet we cannot leave Earth; 
we shall never leave Earth 
as long as we compute escape veloc- 
ity in miles per hours . . . 

Nonsense, Larry thought. Utter 
nonsense. Like all the rest of her 
poetry. And yet, illogically, an ob- 
scure publishing house had brought 
out a collection of her most aber- 
rant verse imder the title of The 



Prisoners of Earth. Nor had they 
stopped wiA one collection. A year 
later another had appeared. Equa- 
tions. 

Larry bent back an offending 
low branch until it snapped. Equa- 
tions! The book had turned out to 
be even more esoteric than The 
Prisoners of Earth had been. At 
least The Prisoners had resembled 
poetry, even though not a single one 
of its lines had rhymed. Equations 
didn’t resemble anything at all. 
**Mass Man” for instance — 



Homo Sapiens 
Technological Culture 



equals Mass Man 



and then there was the one on 
“Earth”— 



Earth x 1,000,000 equals Earth 

and the one on “Escape Velocity” — 

Emotional Escape Velocity 

Maturity ) Technological Progress 

The trees thinned out and he 
foimd himself on the green shoulder 
of a sparkling brook. He paused, 
staring down into the dancing 
water, the equations fading from 
his mind. There were always brooks 
in the milieus Karen chose when 
she ran away — ^brooks and trees and 
meadows, lakes and gentle hills. 
Suddenly he had the feeling that 
he was reenacting an old, old scene 
out of an old, old play. The name 
of the play was Karen and its basic 
plot was girl-leaves-boy, boy-looks- 
for-and-finds-girl. 

They had performed the play in 
so many places, against so many 

43 



PRISONERS OF EARTH 




backgrounds . . . The first place 
had been the Tetkov reservation 
of Alpha Centauri 4, and the back* 
ground had consisted of lazy rivers 
winding among tumbled hills and 
green traceries of trees in serpentine 
valleys. Karen had joined the Tet- 
kov nomads in that performance, 
and Larry had found her, after 
weary, heart-breaking months, cred- 
itless and starving in a little Tet- 
kov town. 

He had taken her back to Earth, 
and after several months he began 
to think that one experience in “go- 
ing native” had permanently cured 
her of her Weltschmerz. She was 
docile, and she smiled at the right 
times and laughed when she was 
supposed to, and she no longer 
made unintelligible remarks when 
galactic civilization was the topic 
of conversation. He even began to 
believe that she was going to be 
worth the five thousand credits he 
had paid her father for her after all. 

And then she had run away and 
the play had begun all over again. 

The background for that per- 
formance had been Heaven, the 
third moon of Sirius 9. Heaven was 
the twenty-third psalm minus the 
valley of the shadow of death. It 
was a place of green pastures and 
still waters. It was blue sky and gen- 
tle terrain and soft winds breathing 
out of the south from morning till 
night, and a big safe night that was 
only a shade less bright than day. 

When he finally found her Karen 
was living on the reservation which 
the Earth Supreme Council had set 
aside for the natives. She was a 
shepherdess. She was wearing a 
shining white robe and hand-made 

44 



native sandals, and she was holding 
a primitive shepherd’s staff. She was 
the most beautiful thing he had 
ever seen, and when he saw her he 
wanted to cry. 

And then he had seen the disil- 
lusionment in her eyes, the pain; 
and for the first time he had noticed 
the bleak steel ribs of the new Inter- 
stellar Trade Building rising in the 
distance — 

The dancing water threw flecks 
of simlight into his eyes and Larry 
turned away. He began walking 
along the green shoulder of the 
bank, the ground rising slowly be- 
neath his feet. The grass was knee- 
deep and infiltrated with flowers; 
birds blurred from little tree to little 
tree. 

He had made up his mind on 
Heaven that there weren’t going to 
be any more performances, but 
there had been many many more. 
He thought of them grimly, and 
thought too of the interludes be- 
tween when Karen had rationalized 
her brief periods of conventional 
behavior by writing her paradoxical 
poetry. And for the hundredth time 
he wondered why he bothered, why 
he didn’t let her go, let her become 
whatever it was that she wanted to 
become, let her, in her own words — 

— Break free from all the gaudy 
glittering things 

that constitute the circumstance of 
man, 

and become the essence of noU 
wanting . . . 

The forest, typical of all Karen 
forests, end^ abruptly, and a 

ROBERT F. YOUNG 




Karen-type hill raised its lovely 
green brow into the blue sky. On 
top of the hill the white buildings of 
the Mission gleamed in the after- 
noon sunlight. Larry climbed the 
hill slowly, wading in the tall grass. 
When he reached the outlying 
buildings and saw the new-turned 
grave in the little burial lot he 
knew, without knowing why or how 
he knew, that the basic plot of the 
play Karen had finally varied, and 
that the curtain this time, had fall- 
en irrevocably. 



HE MISSION Mother came 
out of the chapel while Larry 
was standing by the grave. She 
walked over and stood beside him. 
She was old and thin, with faded 
eyes set deep beneath sharp dark 
brows. She wore the traditional 
golden cape about her shoulders, 
and the sacred U-235 Emblem, 
symbol of the Galactic Church, glit- 
tered on her forehead. 

“She was your wife?” she asked. 

“Yes,” Larry said. There was a 
vast emptiness building up beyond 
the Misseros d^n Gaedo horizon, 
threatening to move in over the 
forests and the blue lakes. 

“She mentioned you several 
times. She seemed to be expecting 
you.” 

“How did she die?” 

“She could have stayed here, but 
she wouldn’t.” The Mission Mother 
snifled. “She could have worked for 
her food and her lodging. But she 
was too lazy. All she wanted to do 
was wander in the forest, to 
dream — ” 

“Never mind all that,” Larry 
PRISONERS OF EARTH 



said. “How did she die?” 

“She died of starvation. She lived 
in the village when she first came. 
Then, when her credits were gone, 
she liv^ in the forest. Naturally 
the natives refused to feed her when 
she could no longer pay.” The Mis- 
sion Mother looked at Larry close- 
ly. “You certainly can’t blame them 
for that, can you?” 

“No, of course not,” Larry said. 
The emptiness had begun to move 
in. He felt the first cold breath of it. 

“She didn’t even blame them 
herself. Just before she died I heard 
her say, ‘Father forgive them — * I 
don’t know why she asked her fa- 
ther to forgive them though.” 

Larry shook his head. He looked 
down at the grave again. There 
were fresh forest flowers covering it. 
“The flowers are beautiful,” he said. 
He looked at the Mission Mother. 
“Did you put them there?” 

Two raddled spots of red ap- 
peared on the Mission Mother’s 
thin cheeks. The U-235 atom glit- 
tered harshly. “Yes . ^ . It isn’t cus- 
tomary but — ” She dropped her 
eyes, stared at the grave. “I don’t 
know why she wouldn’t stay at the 
Mission,” she said. “She could have 
worked for her food. She wouldn’t 
have had to work hard. I don’t 
know why she wouldn’t. I don’t 
know why she was so fascinated by 
the forest — 

“Karen wasn’t like us,” Larry 
said. He looked over the Mission 
Mother’s head at the metallic 
sphere of the chapel, at the big 
atom-emblem poised above it like 
the hard bright heart of a star. He 
wondered if Karen minded being 
buried in what she would have 




45 




called a heathen churchyard. She 
had never believed in the Galactic 
Church. She had belonged to some 
silly religious sect that dated from 
before the dark ages of Earth, a dy- 
ing sect that worshipped an im- 
possible God who advocated throw- 
ing away credits. 

He decided that the religious as- 
pect of the churchyard wasn’t im- 
portant. What was important was 
the green hill on which it stood, the 
matchless blue sky above it, and 
the forest and the lakes rolling away 
into the soft distances. Certainly, 
Karen belonged anywhere at all, 
she belonged here . . . 

The emptiness was very close 
now, and suddenly he knew that he 
couldn’t face it. Not yet. He low- 
ered his gaze to the Mission Mother. 

. “Thank you for trying to help her,” 
he said, and he was shocked to see 
that there were tears in her faded 
eyes. He turned away quickly and 
began walking down the hill. 

He walked down the hill and into 
the forest, the emptiness just behind 
him. He walked through the forest 
rapidly, following the dancing brook 
till he glimpsed the pink spherical 
houses through the foliage. He 
stopped at the house that the chief 
had assigned him and retrieved his 
kit, and then he continued on down 
the village street, the emptiness 
close at his heels. 

When he was halfway down the 
street the chief came running up 
behind him calling, “Wait! Wait!” 
Larry paused, and that was when 
the emptiness caught up to him. 

The chief was breathing hard. 
His baby face was red and his cow- 

46 



lick protruded belligerently. He 
looked like a kid playing baseball 
confronting an umpire who had 
just called a “ball” a “strike.” “You 
did not tell me beautiful Earth lady 
is your wife,” he panted. “She owes 
for one day’s rent, and you must 
pay.” Then he lapsed into one of 
the memorized sentences of his wel- 
come speech: “Having to ask pay- 
ment for services which in happier 
circumstances I would gladly ren- 
der free — 

The emptiness was all around 
Larry now. The numbing truth that 
he could never again find Karen, 
no matter where he looked, no mat- 
ter how long he looked, overcame 
him; and he realized that searching 
for her had subtly become his 
raison d'etre, that without her to 
search for, to hope for, his life had 
no purpose, no meaning whatso- 
ever. The shock of his loss sent his 
values tumbling, and shining like 
a sword through the chaos of what 
once had been an impregnable 
structure came the clear cold 
thought — They let her die. They 
puttered about, playing with the 
outdated gadgets we sold them^ 
counting the credits we taught them 
to value, and they would not even 
throw her a crust of bread — 

“ — is a source of extreme humili- 
ation to me,” the chief concluded, 
“but I have no choice.” 

Larry’s head was throbbing. He 
pulled his credit book out slowly. 
He handed it to the chief. Then he 
swung hard. The chief sank to his 
knees, spitting baby teeth and 
blood. Larry turned and resumed 
walking down the street. He walked 
slowly. He wanted the rest of the 

ROBERT F. YOUNG 





PRISONERS OF EARTH 



47 






THE 

PROXIES 

( 

It was natural that Dee refuse. 
Taking things by force wasn^t 
in his framework. And maybe 
it was well — for Man can 
sometimes learn good, even 
from a robot . . . 

BY 

ARTHUR SELLINGS 



T here was nothing special 
about the flight — as far as the 
public knew. It was only that the 
third contact party to Ganymede 
had come back. But the crowds 
were massed so thickly that it took 
Dee nearly half an hour to cover 
the five hundred yards to the edge 
of the field. 

The Space Department could 
easily have broken its own rules and 
dropped a copter to pick Dee up, 
but they chose not to. That action 
might have started rumors that 
something important was in train. 
The Space Department had ac- 
quired, during a century of failure, 
a reflex abhorrence to such rumors. 

In a way the density and exuber- 
ance of the present crowds bore 
witness to that century of thwarted 
effort and deferred hope. It was 
four years now since Mankind had 
broken through — or half-through 
the space barrier — ^yet still the en- 
thusiasm ran at flood. But Dee and 
his fellows were not only instru- 
ments of achievement; they were 
symbols of hope for the future. In 
Dee and his fellows, men saw the 
image of their own selves to be. 

The copter that awaited him was 
an ordinary yellow civilian one, but 
the pilot was equipped with an SD 
authority which he showed to Dee 
with all the reverence of an aco- 
lyte baring a sacred relic. He ush- 
ered his passenger into the tiny 
cushioned cabin with a deference 
that made Dee feel uncomfortable. 
And when they grounded on the 
roof of the SD building he refused 
the fare that Dee offered. 

“Go on, please take it,” Dee in- 



Illustrat€d by Kelly Freas 



48 








sisted. “Our kind doesn’t have container. “I’m afraid I haven’t, 
much use for money, really.” I’m sorry.” 

But the pilot lifted a beefy hand. But the man was diving at some- 
“No sir. Carrying you is honor thing that had fluttered from the 
enough. First time I ever carried container. 

a real live — ” he coughed quickly — “Is this real Ganymedean?” he 

“a real spaceman. Course, if you’ve said excitedly, 
got some little souvenir — ^justapeb- Dee scrutinized it, “No, that’s a 

ble maybe, a real bit of Ganymede, piece of Martian canal grass. Why, 
my kid’d go crazy.” I must have been carrying that 

Dee rummaged obligingly in his round for two years or more.” 



“I can have it?” 

“Why, of course.” 

Quickly, as if fearful of Dec’s 
changing his mind, the pilot tucked 
the withered scrap of grass into the 
billfold, hopped into his cab and 
took off, leaving Dee shaking his 
head at a scale of values which he 
could never quite understand. 

Inside, the Space Department’s 
anxiety was at the boil. An attend- 
ant gave Dee the curtest of greet- 
ings, then hustled him to the inner 
temple, the Board Room. 

Dee was surprised to see who was 
waiting for him. Jacques was ffiere, 
naturally. So was Floyd, chief of 
SD. But the dozen other faces were 
those of the top members of the 
World Council. So it was that im- 
portant? For a moment Dee had 
misgivings. 

Jacques smiled and waved to 
him. Dee, constrained by the situa- 
tion, bowed stiffly in brief salute and 
made his way to the place at the 
table indicated for him. 

Jacques rose for a moment. “This, 
gentlemen, is Dee, leader of the 
Ganymedean expeditions and the 
oldest of our robots.” 

It was Sabin, Minister for Space, 
who began the questioning. First he 
politely asked if the radio was now 
repaired. Dee assured him that it 
was. Then Sabin asked the number 
one question, the one they were all 
gathered to hear the answer to. 

“Tell us, Dee, you have a crystal 
with you?” 

Dee, hesitated for only a mo- 
ment. Then, “No, sir,” he said. 

In the sudden silence that de- 
scended the tiny whisper of the 

50 



robot’s vital mechanism seemed 
stardingly loud. 

“And why not?” 

“The Ganymedeans refused to 
part with one.” 

“But — ” Sabin looked patiently 
puzzled, like a grown-up addressing 
a child — “you made our offers?” 
“Yes, sir, exactly as instructed. 
They are an agricultural race, so I 
offered them implements. They re- 
fused. They have no power. I of- 
fered them the gas engine. They 
weren’t interested. They appreciate 
music. I offered them a record 
player. They were interested, but 
the suggestion that it might be fair 
barter for a crystal seemed to offend 
them.” 

“But you offered them hundreds, 
thousands if they wanted them?” 
“Indeed, sir, but they seemed 
quite hurt. Oh, in a friendly enough 
way; it was just that — ” 

“The guns?” said Sabin abruptly. 
“You offered them the guns?” 

“No, sir,” said Dee. “I did not 
offer them the guns.” 

“But they are tribal, and conduct 
tribal warfare?” 

“Yes, sir.” 

“Then why did you not offer 
them the guns, as you were in- 
structed?” 

“Because I knew they would be 
rejected. Their warfare is more like 
a kind of gladiatorial contest, and is 
strictly limited both in scope and 
armament. Any alteration of the 
rules or the weapons would be un- 
thinkable.” 

Sabin looked at Dee with eyes as 
expressionless as the robot’s own. 
And when he spoke his voice pos- 
sessed almost as little inflection. 



ARTHUR SELLINGS 




“How did they react to the ulti- 
matum?” 

Dee stared levelly back at his in- 
terrogator. “I did not give the 
ultimatum.” 

The gathered humans seemed to 
twitch. What in fact happened was 
that a dozen pairs of eyebrows 
lifted, a dozen faces turned to 
Jacques and back. It was Sabin who 
voiced the word that had leapt into 
the brains behind those faces, a 
word that woke old, almost arche- 
typal, fears. 

“That is mutiny. Dee. You realize 
that?” 

“Yes, sir,” Dee answered simply. 
“But we could not bring ourselves 
to threaten force to friendly and in- 
telligent beings.” 

The disquiet of the assembled ad- 
ministrators abated slightly, but was 
qualified now by annoyance — and 
a sense of impotence. 

The World President, the Old 
Man himself, big and rough and 
blunt, interjected. “But that doesn’t 
concern you. Nobody wants to use 
force, anyway. We made reasonable 
offers of exchange.” 

“Begging your pardon, sir,” said 
Dee. “But the Ganymedeans did 
not consider them reasonable.” 

“Then what do the idiots want?” 

“Nothing, sir.” 

“Nothing?” 

“Yes, sir, there is nothing in the 
world, theirs or ours, that they 
would exchange a single crystal for. 
You see, the crystals are sacred. The 
flights they make with their aid 
are — ” he paused momentarily to 
search for the word — “ritual. They 
would defend to the death any at- 
tempt to take a crystal by force.” 

THE PROXIES 



“Ah,” Sabin said quickly. “Then 
you did mention the possibility?” 
“No, sir. Their warfare, such as 
it is, is also ritual. It is symbolic of 
resistance to anybody attempting to 
steal a crystal. Not that there is 
anybody to steal them, for no tribe 
would dream of stealing another 
tribe’s stone. But it is a demonstra- 
tion to their gods of their eternal 
readiness to defend their trust.” 
“Poppycock,” said the President. 
He leaned over the table towards 
Dee. “They wouldn’t be able to de- 
fend their trust for five minutes 
against twenty robots.” The Presi- 
dent was angry now. “Why didn’t 
you use force, as you were in- 
structed?” 

“I am sorry,” said Dee. “But no 
robot can kill any intelligent flesh- 
and-blood creature. Unless, of 
course, it threatened Mankind.” 
The President tried reasoning. 
“But how many alien lives would 
have been lost? Twenty? Fifty? A 
hundred? This crystal is of vital 
importance to us. You know that, 
don’t you?” 

“Yes, sir.” 

“And don’t you know that for 
every important advance that Man- 
kind has made, some lives have 
been inevitably lost? That to get 
you and your kind into space, in 
fact, cost literally thousands?” 
“Yes, sir, I realize that. But they 
were accidental deaths, not ones in- 
flicted in cold blood. Moreover, sir, 
I gathered that should one crystal 
of the thirteen be lost, then every 
member of the tribe responsible 
would commit suicide at the shame 
of it.” 

“You seem to be well informed 

51 




about their beliefs,” said Sabin 
drily. ^ 

A sound came from the robot 
that sounded suspiciously like a 
manufactured cough. “Well, sir, 
they did try to convert us.” 

Jacques concealed a smile. Sabin 
looked pained. 

It’s beside the point,” the Presi-* 
dent said gruffly. “But look, Dee, 
aren’t we more important to you 
than a bunch of furry four-legged 
Ganymedeans? Are their hypotheti- 
cal gods to be considered against 
us — us who made you?” 

“Indeed, sir.” The level, unin- 
flected tone of the robot’s voice 
seemed suddenly hushed. “That’s 
the crux of it. We, unique among 
thinking creatures, know who made 
us. That is why we must respect 
creatures who only have faith. I 
knew that we could never carry out 
the ultimatum— or even present it. 
I hoped that it would not be neces- 
sary. If we were other than we are, 
perhaps we could do as you wish, 
but — 

Dee spread his hands in a ges- 
ture oddly human. The President 
raised his in exasperation and 
dropped them tiredly. 

Jacques got to his feet and spoke 
to the robot. 

“Now, Dee, let’s put to one side 
the importance of these crystals to 
the human race. Will you do what 
has been asked of you, not for the 
sake of Mankind, but for my sake, 
and the sake of my grandfather who 
developed you, and my father who 
perfected you and wore himself out 
in the process?” 

Dee hesitated for only a moment. 

“I’m sorry, Mr. Jacques, believe 



me. But I can no more help re- 
fusing than a human can help with- 
drawing his hand from fire. It is 
integral.” 

And it was obviously final. Sabin 
turned to the robot. “You may go,” 
he said coldly. 



A S SOON as the robot had left, 
the President looked anxiously 
to Sabin. “Shouldn’t he be 
guarded?” 

“What with?” said Sabin, man- 
aging to sound respectful and ironic 
at the same time. “Another robot?” 
“That’s what I mean. This latest 
development is making me feel un- 
easy. I feel they can’t be trusted 
any more.” 

Jacques hastened to reassure 
them. 

“This isn’t a new development. 
It’s just an unforseen reaction to a 
new situation^ — 3. situation they 
haven’t been confronted with be- 
fore. But they could never turn 
against us. It only means that in 
this case they can’t turn with us.” 
“It’s not without significance,” 
Floyd commented drily, “that the 
first time that happens should be 
on an issue that concerns them per- 
sonally. So far, robots have had the 
monopoly of space flight because 
we haven’t yet found a motive 
jjower that doesn’t' involve accelera- 
tions beyond the power of man to 
survive. The Ganymedeans have 
crystals with definite anti-gravitic 
properties. Once Man could de- 
velop that principle Dee and his 
fellows would take a back seat. 
So — ” he spread his hands — “no 
crystal.” 



52 



ARTHUR SELLINGS 




Trust Floyd, Jacques thought. 
But could he really be blamed for 
thinking that way? Floyd would 
never be more than the nominal 
head of SD — so long as SD had to 
rely on robots, and so long therefore 
as Floyd had to rely on Jacques. So 
it was no wonder if his feelings for 
robots fell some way short of ven- 
eration. 

“What do you say to that, 
Jacques?” said the President. 

“Only that it’s erroneous,” 
Jacques answered affably. “Robots 
don’t think like that,” 

“But how can we be sure?” It 
was Sabin. “Oh, I know all about 
aptitude patterns and reaction tests, 
and suchlike. But can we really 
know? Surely, the cardinal point is, 
that they have intelligence. That 
implies a capability to conceal their 
true motives, doesn’t it?” 

“Perhaps. But any such motive 
could only be directed towards 
Man’s good. They could have no 
personal desire to retain their 
monopoly.” 

“Personal?” queried the Presi- 
dent. “What other kind of motive 
could they have, then?” 

don’t know, sir, I didn’t bring 
the question of motive up. Dee’s 
own comparison was to a human 
reflex action. Certainly, their rever- 
ence for intelligent life must be as 
basic to them as fear of fire is to 
us.” 

The President grunted. 

“Fear — reverence,” said Sabin, as 
if balancing the words. “He looked 
sharply at Jacques. “They have 
emotions, then?” 

Jacques hesitated. “It’s not quite 
as simple as that. They haven’t any- 

THE PROXIES 



thing resembling a glandular sys- 
tem. They cannot love — not physi- 
cally, anyway. They do not have 
children to protect, nor an old age 
to build and provide against. So 
they haven’t the physical bases for 
emotion.” 

“Well, then, have they emo- 
tions?” 

“Let us say that such emotions 
as they have, while real enough, are 
intellectual in origin. That seems a 
contradiction, but it’s the way it is. 
Or the nearest it can be expressed 
in terms of human feelings.” 

As soon as Sabin spoke next, 
Jacques recognized the comer into 
which the cold-eyed Minister had 
been hunting his quarry. 

“Then, if they have — ^let us call 
them simulacra of emotions — ^then 
they also possess the simulacrum of 
a desire to go on living?” 

“Ye-es.” 

“Then they can be threatened — 
on pain of extinction?” 

“No, I’m afraid not. It was ex- 
perimentally verified by my father,” 
said Jacques, “over twenty years 
ago. He told a robot to stab me — 
or be destroyed.” He smiled slightly. 
“My father was nothing if not the 
dedicated scientist. The robot re- 
fused. My father swung a seven 
pound sledge within three inches of 
its head. The head was only a make- 
shift casing, and fragile, but the 
robot didn’t flinch.” 

“And your father destroyed it?” 
“Good heavens, no! Not when it 
had cost fifty million dollars at that 
time.” He added an afterthought. 
“That robot was Dee. Or essentially 
Dee. A lot has been added to him 
since.” 



53 




“Can pain be inflicted upon a 
robot?” one of the Ministers put In. 

“No, sir. Their equivalent to a 
nervous system is electro-magnetic. 
That was why my father swung 
the hammer in a near miss— a sub- 
stitute for pain to show that he 
meant to implement his threat. You 
can’t, after all, twist a robot’s arm. 
Not to any effect, anyway.” 

“Then, surely,” said Sabin, “you 
must have had some idea that Dee 
would save refused to carry out the 
ultimatum on Ganymede.” 

^ “No. You see, my father’s direc- 
tive all those years ago to stab me 
was purposeless and was directed 
against a human, a human that Dee 
knew. I thought that Dee would 
assess the situation on Ganymede 
intellectually, and balance human 
needs against his own constitutional 
aversion. I was wrong.” 
“Constitutional?” said Sabin im- 
placably. “That brings us to the 
question of conditioning a robot. 
That or making one specifically for 
the job.” 

“That’s right,” said the Presi*- 
dent. “Why do we bother with ro- 
bots who are nothing better, as I 
see it, than a lot of problem chil- 
dren? I remember, when I was a 
kid, they used to have robots that 
were remote-controlled dummies. 
Why can’t we have a ship-crew of 
robots like that to go up after one 
of these crystals — ^controlled from 
right here on Earth?” 

Jacques sighed. That chestnut! 
He thought every school kid these 
days knew the answer to that r>ne. 

“Because, Mr. President, remote 
control is radio control, and radio 
waves take a whole five seconds and 

54 



more to travel a million miles. And 
five seconds to travel back. Which 
just about washes it out for space 
travel. A ship requires split-second 
handling at landing, and during 
flight. That’s why all the years of 
research and billions in money had 
to be spent to evolve Dee and his 
Wnd. The crews have to have com*- 
plete initiative.” 

The Old Man gnmted. “All 
right, then, why not just ship one 
radio-controlled robot? Just for get- 
ting the crystal.” 

“But the others would know. 
They’d suspect something was 
wrong when the dummy robot took 
a longer and longer time to answer 
questions. The time-lag) remember) 
by the time the ship reached Gany- 
mede, would be in the order of a 
full hour.” 

“Then, dammit) let the dummy 
one only be actuated when the ship 
lands. Send it out armed. One 
armed robot, even a dummy one, 
should be able to get through^ 
shouldn’t it?” 

“But the time-lag would still op- 
erate,” said Jacques patiently. “By 
the time you got vision signals back, 
the Ganymedeans would either flee 
with their precious crystal, or the 
real robots would immobilize the 
dummy.” 

“You mean,” said the President 
angrily, “they’d take active steps 
against us. That’s rather more 
drastic than just passive refusal to 
obey an order, isn’t it?” 

Sabin cut in suavely. “I’m sure, 
Mr. President, we needn’t let such 
a fine point as the difference be- 
tween sins of omission and of com- 
mission Qome into it, need we? 

ARTHUR SELLINGS 




Surely the solution lies elsewhere. 
In conditioning the robots we al- 
ready have.” He turned to Jacques. 
“Can’t you build a prime directive 
into one?” 

“Easily enough,” Jacques assured 
him. 

“Well then?” 

“The robot wouldn’t be able to 
carry it out. It’s like that old gag 
of a service principle. My grand- 
father wasted ten years worrying 
over that one, before he realized he 
was beating his head against a wall 
that wasn’t there. A service princi- 
ple works well enough for simple 
mechanisms. But try any kind of 
a prime directive on a full-fledged 
robot, and it means that every ac- 
tion it takes has to be assessed 
against the directive. Every action 
— every placing of one foot in front 
of the other. The effective result is 
a robot so inhibited as to be prac- 
tically useless. Fortunately, the need 
for any kind of service principle 
was long ago found to be non-ex- 
istent. Service is a robot’s natural 
reaction, because it’s his only func- 
tion.” 

“Most of the time,” said Floyd 
sarcastically. 

“But, dammit,” said the Presi- 
dent, “can’t a new crew be made — 
of simpler robots that aren’t going 
to worry their tin heads about mat- 
ters that don’t concern them? This 
Dee is a whole lot too knowing for 
my liking.” 

“He has to be knowing,” said 
Jacques. “A simpler robot could 
never handle a space ship. A robot 
has to be intelligent, educated, re- 
sponsible, capable of making split- 
second judgments. He has to be a 

THE PROXIES 



substitute man, in fact.” 

“But if his training’s only tech- 
nical — ?” 

“Even so, he has to be taught by 
men — ^at least, he has to be fed with 
man-conceived ideas. After all — 
Jacques smiled wryly — “those are 
the only ones we know. And even 
technical data bears the print of 
man’s thought as a whole. More 
than algebraic values, for instance, 
are implicit in the statement that 
e equals mc*^* 

The silence that ensued, as the 
company mulled over the thought, 
was broken when the President said, 
“Then, in fact, the robots have us 
over a barrel?” 

“Yes sir, I’m afraid so.” 

“We can’t threaten them. We 
can’t hurt them. If we got rid of 
the lot of them and started over 
again with a new bimch, we still 
wouldn’t solve the problem, besides 
spending millions of dollars — ” He 
addressed Jacques. “Look here, 
your father only threatened the ro- 
bot. It wouldn’t have taken much 
intelligence on the robot’s part to 
see that that swing with the ham- 
mer was only a bluff. Say we car- 
ried out the experiment properly. 
Threaten a robot, but in front of 
the next robot in line. Then, when 
it refused, carry out the threat — 
destroy it. How would number two 
react then, would you say?” 

Jacques reflected for a moment. 
“The same as number one, I should 
think.” 

The Old Man looked at him 
penetratingly from under shaggy 
brows. “And how would you re- 
act?” 



55 




«l?y> 

“If the roboU have a vested in- 
terest in their monopoly, you have 
a vested interest in them, haven’t 
you?” 

“So?” 

“Only that you might be — ^pro- 
tecting them.” 

“Mr. President,” said Jacques 
coldly. “It’s true that 1 have a cer- 
tain identity of interest with them. 
In a way I grew up with them. But 
I’m just as anxious as anyone here 
to see us get hold of one of those 
crystals. I’ve only tried to point out 
that drastic means will get us now- 
here.” 

The President smiled briefly. “I 
believe you. I just wanted to be 
sure. But this experiment, how 
about it?” 

“It wouldn’t be of any use. You 
could implement the threat on 
Earth. But say number two did 
agree, and the rest with him? You 
still couldn’t implement the threat 
when they were on Ganymede. You 
can’t hold a pistol to a robot’s head 
four million miles away.” 

The President stirred gloomilv. 
“That just about sums it up. Helll 
Why did those crystals have to be 
discovered by primitive people who 
haven’t the slightest real use for 
them, while we’d give our right 
arms for one!” 

“One theory,” said Sabin, “is that 
they may be relics of some older, 
greater race on Ganymede, or per- 
haps of some interplanetary visi- 
tor.” 

“Anyway,” said the Old Man 
testily, “is it established beyond all 
shadow of a doubt that they really 
are anti-gravitic?” 

56 



“Definitely,” Sabin assured him. 
“The atmosphere on Ganymede is 
too thin for the natives’ aircraft to 
be any kind of glider. Besides, they 
rise vertically, as the films have 
shown us. The crystal is mounted 
on a ramshackle carriage of fiber. 
The tribe drags the carriage into 
one of the special valleys, which 
seem to harbor strong electro-mag- 
netic fields. This seems to energize 
the crystal, or trigger it, and the 
aircraft takes to the air.” 

“I know all about that. But how 
do we know it’s not just some kind 
of local effect? Some harnessing of 
the planetary field that wouldn’t 
be of any use at all for motive pow- 
er in space?” 

“We don’t,” said Sabin. “But 
even so it would be something 
brand new. It might not be the key 
to the door, but it might well be 
the key to the box that contains it 
— and a few more besides.” 

“We’re half a billion miles away 
from them.” The President said 
ironically “And all that stands be- 
tween them and us is a band of self- 
righteous servants who’d do any- 
thing for us. Oh yes — and a time- 
lag. That’s all. Surely — 

“Just a moment, sir.” It was 
Floyd. “I think I have it! Jacques 
says we can’t hold a pistol to their 
heads all that distance away. But 
why can’t we? Listen . . 

The others listened with deepen- 
ing conviction. They applauded 
when Floyd finished. 

“Well, Jacques?” said the Presi- 
dent. “Is that feasible? Won’t that 
turn the trick and put them over 
the barrel?” 



ARTHUR SELLINGS 




‘Terhaps. But the time-lag still 
comes into it. As soon as we put 
them over it, they could get off 
again, before we could stop them.” 

“Em-mm, I see what you mean,” 
the President said. 

“Ah,” said Floyd, “But we can 
beat that, too. We can put them 
over the barrel and tie them there 
in the same action.” He proceeded 
to tell them how. 

Jacques had to admire the neat- 
ness of it — and its devilish sim- 
plicity. He could find no flaws in it. 
The only objection he could think 
of was a sm^l one, a tactical one. 

“That will take a lot of work. 
Perhaps Dee and his colleagues will 
smell a rat if they’re cleared off the 
ship.” 

“They can be told it’s being re- 
paired,” said Sabin. 

“But they always make their own 
repairs.” 

“Jacques, do you think they’ll 
suspect us?” 

“No. They may be knowledge- 
able, and highly intelligent, but I 
think a trick such as this would be 
beyond their conception. You see, 
they trust us.” 

The President coughed hastily. 
“Still, that point made about get- 
ting them off the ship still stands. 
We can’t give them the slightest 
cause to start wondering.” 

“I know,” said Heimer, Minister 
of Enlightenment. “We’ll take Dee 
and his crew on a conducted tour, 
show the heroes off to the admir- 
ing populace.” 

There was general laughter at 
that. It put the problem in a pack- 
age and tied it with the neatest of 
bows. 



“I’d like to make one request,” 
said Jacques when the laughter 
died. “I’d like to put the question to 
Dee fairly and squarely for the last 
time. If I make every point I can, 
he might agree to do it after dl, 
without our having to do anything 
drastic.” 

“He agreed before,” said Floyd 
warily. 

“Because he thought he wouldn’t 
have to give the ultimatum. But if 
he promised me this time, I’d stake 
my life on that promise holding.” 

“You can’t argue away a reflex,” 
Sabin commented. 

“Then neither can you threaten 
it away. The reflex comparison was 
just that — 3i comparison. With them 
it’s only an instinctive reaction to 
data accumulated. If I can feed 
Dee enough data on oiu* side I may 
be able to tip it.” 

“Can’t see any harm in it,” said 
the President. “It might save a lot 
of time and trouble. But not a hint 
to him that we’re anything but re- 
signed to their stubbornness, you 
understand?” 

“Naturally, sir.” 

“And while you’re about it,” the 
Old Man added drily, “you can be 
the one to tell him about the per- 
sonal appearance tour.” 



T he light was fading from 
the autumn sky by the time 
Jacques got home. His housekeeper 
mentioned that a man from the vifo 
company had called to check on the 
set. Just a routine visit, he’d told 
her. And he’d only been a couple of 
minutes, she said. 

Jacques smiled to himself as he 

57 



THE PROXIES 




went on into the lounge. That 
hadn’t been a man from the vifo 
company. Two minutes was Just the 
time it took to fix a snoop. C5h well, 
he thought, it was better that way. 
It woula prevent unnecessary sus^ 
picions. 

“Chess, Mr. Jacques?” said Dee, 
as soon as his bulky, but strangely 
unawkward frame was through the 
door. 

‘‘Not this evening. Dee.** Jacques 
grimaced. ‘TVe had enough of a 
beating at the Department for one 
day.” 

“Oh,” said Dee. “Tm sorry.’* 

“About the chess?” 

“No, about the trouble at the De- 
partment. But you understand, 
don’t you?” 

“In a way I do. I think, though, 
you’re being rather absolutist about 
it. Why, Dee? There’s more to it 
than what you told them at die De- 
partment, isn’t there?” 

The robot hesitated. “Yes,” he 
admitted. 

“Then what? You can tell me, 
surely.” He felt a twinge of guilt as 
he said it, knowing that in a nearby 
prowl car two or three figures 
would be crouched, listening, 
watching. 

“Well — ” Dee shuffled his feet, 
and the man wondered, as he had 
many times before, at the odd way 
that metal and plastic could some- 
times match the most human ges- 
tures of flesh and blood. 

“Well?” 

“It is not easy to say,” said Dee 
at last, “without seeming disrespect- 
ful. You know we have studied 
Man with devotion, because he is 
our creator. The world, the uni- 

58 



verse, only make sense to us when 
viewed from the standpoint of Man 
and his interests—” 

“Get to the point. Dee,” Jacques 
said with good-humored impa- 
tience. 

“Well, there are some things in 
Man’s history that fill us with sor- 
row. So often his failings seem to 
transcend his virtues. Once he starts 
behaving badly he seems to get into 
a tightening spiral of guilt, from 
which he can escape only by dras- 
tic means.” 

“Well?” Jacques said, frowning 
now. 

“Please, don’t think I presume 
to criticise, Mr. Jacques. How could 
I? The failings are noble failings. 
If Man had only these lesser aun- 
ties and nothing else, he would still 
be a miracle to us. But if we can 
save him in any way from those 
failings, then we shall be content. 
With the Ganymedeans, Man has 
made his first contact with intelli- 
gent beings of another world — the 
first of many, I hope and believe. 
We robots should not be doing our 
duty if we helped to start space 
travel on the wrong foot— the way 
that white men colonized the native 
territories of Earth, for instance.” 

“Well, of all the high-handed—” 
Jacques thought he had understood 
the strange simplicity of robots’ rea- 
soning processes. Evidently he had 
been wrong. Perhaps he had been 
too close to them. This latest mani- 
festation was the limit! “You 
weren’t made to be our nurse- 
maids,” he went on angrily. “We’ve 
still got to make our own mistakes. 
That’s the way we’ve always 
learned.” 



ARTHUR SELLINGS 




“Indeed, Mr. Jacques. But we 
can’t make them for you. That 
would be a mistake on our part. 

Damn your knowledge and your 
arrogant judgments, Jacques 
thought. Had he been wrong — and 
the President right when he had 
questioned their being so knowl- 
edgeable? But what Dee had just 
told him was only a reasoned justi- 
fication of an automatic response 
to the situation. A less sophisticated 
robot would still react in the same 
way. In fact, it was Dee’s knowledge 
that offered the only hope of con- 
vincing him. At least, knowledge 
could be argued with. 

“I’m sorry,” Dee added, “if our 
attitude seems high-handed. It’s not 
meant to be, believe me.” 

“Whether it is or not,” Jacques 
told him curtly, “the public 
wouldn’t take a kindly view of it if 
they knew. Up to now this whole 
business has been kept secret. Shots 
of the flying machines have been 
deleted from the films you brought 
back, because that might start ques- 
tions being asked, hopes raised. If 
the story of your refusal leaked out, 
you’d find your popularity taking 
a sudden slump — bright in the oppo- 
site direction. Remember, you may 
be made of metal — ^but buildings 
are made of stone, and that never 
stopped an angry mob in the past.” 
“Now, Mr. Jacques,” said Dee. 
“You’re trying to frighten me.” 
“You idiot! I know that can’t be 
done. I’m trying to point out two 
things to you. One is that humans 
aren’t children. Another is that — 
well, if your lives only have mean- 
ing because you’re helping Man, 
doesn’t it mean somethmg to you 

THE PROXIES 



to be honored for it?” 

“It makes us happy only because 
it makes Man happy,” Dee an- 
swered. “As for our popularity, it 
might not be a bad thubg if it were 
to suffer. We’re too popular now. 
The hopes of Mankind are concen- 
trated too much in us, and that’s 
wrong. For does it not say in your 
own books of faith. Thou shalt not 
make unto thee any graven image 
Jacques groaned. Just what could 
you make of a being who would 
serve you, gently but stubbornly 
defy you — ^and when you told him 
what a thundering good fellow peo- 
ple thought him, quote Scripture 
back at you? But the robot’s words 
reminded him of the personal ap- 
pearance tour. He broke the news. 

“Oh,” said Dee. “Well, if you 
think it’s really necessary — ” 

“The Department thinks it is.” 
“Very well, Mr. Jacques.” 

“Of course — ” the man eyed the 
robot speculatively — “once Man got 
into space himself, that would solve 
any burden of misgiving you might 
have about your undue popularity.” 
“Oh, he will find a way, Mr. 
Jacques.” 

At that — the sheer smug confi- 
dence of the robot’s attitude — 
Jacques nearly lost his patience. But 
he managed to restrain himself. 
“But it may be too late, can’t you 
see that? He has to find it, soon. 
These crystals obviously work on a 
principle that we haven’t a clue to, 
as yet. We may not find it for hun- 
dreds, thousands of years. Doesn’t 
that penetrate?” 

“Yes, Mr. Jacques. But I’m sure 
that Man will find the answer for 
himself — by himself. And in time. 



59 




That’s one of the really wonderful 
things about him — ^he always has 
found the answers in time.” 

“You — ^you maniacs!” Jacques 
exploded. “One moment you regard 
us as delinquent children, the next 
as gods. For heaven’s sake, why 
can’t you see us for what we are — 
fallible flesh and blood who need 
your help? Can’t you see that your 
own attitude in ttiis matter is lim- 
ited?” 

“Mr. Jacques, if we’re limited, 
then we can’t help it, can we? We 
can only act within the framework 
of our own natures. Talking can’t 
change it. Nor can anything else. 
Out there in space we’re absolutely 
on our own — 

“Why do you say that?” said 
Jacques, suddenly disquietened. 
Did Dee suspect? 

But the robot’s answer was guile- 
less. “Only that we won’t let Man 
down. We know he has to trust us. 
Believe me, whatever our limita- 
tions, we won’t discredit our mak- 
ers.” 

At any other time Jacques might 
have thought Dee’s words rather 
noble. But now he was angry — an- 
gry and helpless. He spoke to the 
robot in a cold fury: 

“You might have gone down in 
history as honored servants of men. 
But you won’t. We won’t forget 
this betrayal. When Man does get 
into space for himself, he’ll take a 
particular pleasure in throwing you 
on the junk heap. He’ll be glad to 
be rid of you, as he’s always been 
glad to be rid of those who tried to 
limit his freedom — dictators, dog- 
matists, prohibitionists. At least, 
they were human; they knew what 

60 



the choice was. But you don’t im- 
derstand that Man has to have free- 
dom — even the freedom to make a 
fool or brute of himself. No matter 
how long it takes us to be inde- 
pendent of you, there’s going to be 
a day marked up in future calen- 
dars in red — The Day We Junked 
The Robots'^ 

He spat the words, not caring 
that Security men were watching, 
not even caring whether Floyd was 
with them, as he doubtless was, 
watching and listening — and re- 
joicing at the spectacle of his fail- 
ure to reason with his own crea- 
tures. And he came to the end, re- 
alizing that his invective had an- 
other motive. It couldn’t deflect 
Dee; he had no illusions about that. 
But as a fact — a token of Man’s 
need and frustration — there was a 
faint hope that it might register, tip 
the balance. 

Dee took it all in silence — a si- 
lence that continued for moments 
after Jacques had finished. Then 
the robot said, “Perhaps it would 
have been better if we had never 
been created. It would have been 
simpler that way.” 

That was all. Then he turned on 
a metal heel and left. Jacques heard 
the street door slide open and shut. 
He stood there numbly. If the robot 
could think like that, then there 
was a risk, a big risk, in Floyd’s 
plan. 



F our people were grouped 
intently over the television 
screen. The President, Floyd, Sabin 
— ^and Jacques. The first three were 
doing their best to conceal an ex- 

ARTHUR SELLINGS 




pectant excitement. Jacques was 
having no such difficulty. He felt 
depressed. He was here only be- 
cause he had to be. 

Ten weeks had passed since Dee’s 
final refusal. Jacques had not seen 
him since. In that time, the per- 
sonal appearance tour had taken 
the robots from their ship, and a 
squad of human technicians had 
descended upon it. And the robots 
had returned, and after a few days 
taken off again for Ganymede. 

The ship had been in hourly au- 
dio Contact. Now the voice of Dee 
was announcing landing. The little 
group in front of the screen stopped 
fidgeting. The visiscreen suddenly 
brightened, celestatic popped and 
swirled for a moment, then the 
landscape of Ganymede took shape 
upon it — that unmistakably rocky 
and tumbled landscape that looked 
something like the Giant’s Cause* 
way on Earth. Dee’s voice an- 
nounced clearly: 

“Landing safely accomplished — 
in the habitated sector. Have we 
any instructions?” 

It was the usual routine. Floyd 
cast one confident glance round the 
group, then gave his instructions. 
He read them from a carefully-pre- 
pared script. 

“Listen closely. You are to keep 
your visi-transmitter on and trained 
on the landscape. Then take ten of 
your crew and get a crystal. By 
force. Don’t switch off. Get a crys- 
tal. Bring it back. Bring your cam- 
era into the ship, keeping it trained 
on the crystal. Take the crystal to 
specimen locker seven, deposit the 
crystal and close the locker. Then 
return immediately to Earth. Oth- 

THE PROXIES 



erwise a sizeable piece of Gany- 
mede, including yourselves and sev- 
eral tribes of Ganymedeans, will be 
blown to nothingness. Your ship is 
carrying a G-bomb sufficient to do 
that. The bomb was activated from 
Earth the moment the signal of 
your landing came through, and 
will be detonated from here if you 
resist orders. Don’t think that you 
can escape by taking off before the 
detonation signal reaches you. The 
bomb is automatically linked to 
your firing system. Only when the 
crystal is deposited in specimen 
locker seven will the link to the fir- 
ing system be disconnected. 

“Don’t try to force the locking 
mechanism to locker seven. It can’t 
be forced that quickly. Don’t try 
closing it, for it will register elec- 
tronically here when it is shut 
properly, and only then. Keep 
everything in full view. No, tricks. 
No excuses. If you don’t have that 
crystal inside of one hour, we shall 
detonate the bomb. 

“We know the means are drastic, 
but you left us no alternative. 
Acknowledge receipt of this mes- 
sage — then get that crystal.” 

Floyd flipped off the mike, and 
turned to the others. “Well, that’s 
it. The trap’s sprung.” 

“Now all we have to do,” said 
Sabin, “is pray the mechanism 
doesn’t let us down.” 

“Checked and triple*checked,” 
Floyd assured him. 

“Only on Earth,” the President 
rumbled. “We’ll pray anyway.” 
Minutes passed. 

Each of them in turn looked from 
the screen to his watch, then back 
again. 



61 




“Tliere’s nothing happening!” 
the President exploded suddenly. 

Floyd smiled faintly. “It’s all 
right, sir. The time-lag.” 

“Uh — oh, of course,” the Old 
Man said. 

More minutes passed. 

The Old Man rose to his feet and 
began pacing about .like a caged 
lion. 

Sabin looked at Floyd. Floyd 
got up. “Well, it’s going to be an- 
other — ” he consulted his watch — 
“forty-five minutes. What say we 
break for a cup of coffee?” 

“Anything’s better than this wait- 
ting,” the President said. His craggy 
face cracked in a grin. “And any- 
thing’s better than coffee. We’ll 
have something a bit stronger.” 
They moved to the door. Floyd 
turned back. “Coming, Jacques?” 
“Oh, sure, sure,” said Jacques, 
rising. There was nothing he could 
do here. There was nothing anyone 
could do anywhere. 



T hey returned in good 

time. Sabin, livened by a stiflf 
whiskey, tried to ease the waiting by 
telling funny stories. They weren’t 
fimny, but they did help kill the 
tension. He was in the middle of 
one when the speaker suddenly 
crackled. 

“Sh-sh,” said Floyd, unnecessar- 
ily. Dee was answering. 

“Message received. I regret it is 
not possible to get the crystal. You 
see, we are not on Ganymede — ” 
As he spoke the scene on the 
visiscreen suddenly whipped away. 
It was replaced by another. This 
plainly wasn’t Ganymede. Gany- 

62 



mede had an atmosphere — ^thin, but 
atmosphere. Here the shadows were 
the black and absolute ones of com- 
plete airlessness. The terrain, too, 
was harsh and needle-sharp, quite 
imlike Ganymede’s. 

“I have, in fact,” the voice of 
Dee went on, “the honor to an- 
nounce the first landing on Gallisto. 
I’m sorry to have to confess to a de- 
ception, but the view of Ganymede 
was only a still, inserted in the 
camera. We had an absorbing time 
on the trip, debating what measures 
you would have tiken to enforce 
your orders. We tried to put our- 
selves in your place. Of course, that 
was not easy. It is indeed a tribute 
to our makers that we thought 
along precisely the same lines and 
reached an identical conclusion. Of 
course, we could have taken steps 
to locate and dismantle the bomb in 
transit, but we decided that we 
could not risk destruction of the 
ship and ourselves, knowing the 
high replacement cost of both 
items — 

The camera had been tracking as 
Dee spoke. It turned and showed 
the ship’s embarkation port, ap- 
proached it, then entered the ship. 
The camera wheeled into the ship’s 
control room and was on Dee now. 

“If you are angry with us, please 
destroy us here, for this is a lifeless 
satellite and no one would be 
harmed.” He spread his hands. “It 
is better that we deceive you as we 
were forced to do, better that you 
should destroy us, than that your 
contact with the creatures of other 
worlds should start with violence. 
Forgive me for saying so again, but 
it is true. 



ARTHUR SELLINGS 




“If you can see that, will you 
please free our firing system so that 
we can return to Earth for the 
bomb to be removed. We should 
like to be free as soon as possible 
for — ah, unqualified service. Please 
inform us.” 

The camera tracked off the robot 
onto a control panel. The sound 
band went silent. 

“Blast their tin hides!” the Presi- 
dent swore. “They did suspect. 
They knew.” He sighed. “All right, 
Floyd, release all controls on the 
ship.” 

Floyd’s fingers moved resignedly 
to the switches and opened them. 
“All right, Dee,” he said. “You can 
fire in safety now. You may return 
home.” He switched off leaving 
only the receivers open. “Damn,” 
he said softly. “Why didn’t I think 
of that? I had everything else 
reckoned.” 

“Well, it’s too late now,” said the 
President. “They out-tricked us.” 
His voice was a rumble, but it 
seemed, to Jacques at least, to hold 
overtones of respect for the robots. 
The Old Man was a politico, and a 
tough one. This wasn’t the first de- 
feat he’d had to swallow. 

“We’ll just have to think of some- 
thing else,” said Sabin, his voice 
devoid of anger, regret— or any 
otfier emotion. “We’ve just got to 
convince them. Say we tell them the 
sun’s going nova, or the Earth’s 

? ;oing to blow up — and that we’ve 
ust got to find a way out?” He 
looked elatedly at the others. 

Jacques almost laughed to see the 
light of elation die as Sabin’s gaze 
flickered from face to face. Floyd’s 

THE PROXIES 



expression was skeptical. 

^‘No, Sabin,” he said at last. “I’m 
sure Dee and his friends would in- 
sJat— very humbly, of course — on 
checking up. Just to prevent our 
making another mistake. 

“I guess we’ll just have to face 
it. They’re going to be our ambassa- 
dors — until we do find a way. And 
when we do we’ll have to act the 
way they want us to. We’ll have to 
live up to the good reputation 
they’re going to give us. And, taking 
the long-term view, that mightn’t 
be such a bad thing at that—” 
Which was just about what Dee 
had said, thought Jacques to him- 
self wryly. 

“Another thing,” said the Presi- 
dent. “Nobody ever did any good 
with something they got for free. 
We’ve been too het-up about these 
crystals. They seemed like a Magic 
Carpet. Well, maybe they are and 
maybe they’re not. Anyway, we’ll 
find our own way. The world isn’t 
going to go hang for quite a while, 
no matter what some of the more 
pessimistic may say. Setting out to 
find one thing, there’s no knowing 
what else may turn up along the 
road. Why, if space travel hadn’t 
turned out to be so darned difficult, 
then we’d never even have evolved 
a robot, because there wouldn’t 
have been any need for one.” 

And that, thought Jacques, was 
a point that Dee hadn’t mentioned. 
It was a truth that Man had to 
realize for himself. 

An hour later only Jacques was 
left to hear the uninflected, emo- 
tionless voice of Dee say : 

“Message received. Thank you. 
Returning home.” • • • 



63 




When everything is either restricted, confidential 
or top-secret, a Reader is a very bad security risk. 




BY EDWARD W. LUDWIG 



Illustrated by Ed Emsh 



T ICK-DE-TOCK, tick-de~tock, whispered the antique clock 
on the first floor of the house. 

There was no sound save for the ticking — and for the pound- 
ing of Ronnie’s heart. 

He stood alone in his upstairs bedroom. His slender-boned, 
eight-year-old body trembling, perspiration glittering on his 
white forehead. 

To Ronnie, the clock seemed to be saying: 

Daddys coming. Daddy s coming. 

The soft shadows of September twilight in this year of 2056 
were seeping into the be^oom. Ronnie welcomed the fall of 
darkness. He wanted to sink into its deep silence, to become one 
with it, to escape forever from savage tongues and angry eyes. 
A burst of hope entered Ronnie’s fear-filled eyes. Maybe 

64 




something would happen. Maybe 
Dad would have an accident. May- 
be— 

He bit his lip hard, shook his 
head. No. No matter what Dad 
might do, it wasn’t right to wish — 

The whirling whine of a gyro-car 
mushroomed up from the landing 
platform outside. 

Ronnie shivered, his pulse quick- 
ening. The muscles in his small 
body Were like a web of taut-drawn 
wires. 

Sound and movement below. 
Mom flicking off the controls of the 
kitchen’s Auto-Chef. The slow 
stride of her high heels through the 

65 



living room. The slamming of a 
gyro-car door. The opening of the 
front door of the house. 

Dad’s deep, happy voice echoed 
up the stairway: 

“Hi, beautiful!” 

Ronnie huddled in the darkness 
by the half-open bedroom door. 

Please, Mama, his mind cried, 
please don^t tell Daddy what I did. 

There was a droning, indistinct 
murmur* 

Dad burst, “He was doing 
whatr 

More murmuring. 

“I can’t believe it. You really 
saw him? . . . I’ll be damned.” 



Ronnie silently closed the bed- 
room door. 

Why did you tell him, Mama? 
Why did you have to tell him? 

“Ronnie!” Dad called. 

Ronnie held his breath. His legs 
seemed as numb and n^eless as 
the stumps of dead trees. 

"^Ronnie! Come down here!** 

Like an automaton, Ronnie shuf- 
fled out of his bedroom. He stepped 
on the big silver disk on the landing. 
The auto-stairs clicked into hum- 
ming movement under his weight. 

To his left, on the wall, he caught 
kaleidoscopic glimpses of Mom’s 
old pictures, copies of paintings by 
medieval artists like Rembrandt, 
Van Gogh, Cezanne, Dali. The 
faces seemed to be mocking him. 
Ronnie felt like a wounded bird 
falling out of the sky. 

He saw that Dad and Mom were 
waiting for him. 

Mom’s round blue eyes were full 
of mist and sadness. She hadn’t 
bothered to smooth her clipped, 
creamy-brown hair as she always 
did when Dad was coming home. 

And Dad, handsome in his night- 
black, skin-tight Pentagon uniform, 
had become a hostile stranger with 
narrowed eyes of black fire. 

“Is it true, Ronnie?” asked Dad. 
“Were you really — really reading a 
book?” 

Ronnie gulped. He nodded. 

“Good Lord,” Dad murmured. 
He took a deep breath and squatted 
down, held Ronnie’s arms and 
looked hard into his eyes. For an 
instant he became the kind, un- 
derstanding father that Ronnie 
knew. 

66 



“Tell me all about it, son. Where 
did you get the book? Who taught 
you to read?” 

Ronnie tried to keep his legs 
from shaking. “It was — ^Daddy, you 
won’t make trouble, will you?” 

“This is between you and me, 
son. We don’t care about anyone 
else.” 

“Well, it was Kenny Davis. 
He—” 

Dad’s fingers tightened on Ron- 
nie’s arms. “Kenny Davis!” he spat. 
“The boy’s no good. His father 
never had a job in his life. No- 
bod/d even offer him a job. Why, 
the whole town knows he’s a 
Reader!” 

Mom stepped forward. “David, 
you promised you’d be sensible 
about this. You promised you 
wouldn’t get angry.” 

Dad grunted. “All right, son. Go 
ahead.” 

“Well, one day after school Ken- 
ny said he’d show me something. 
He took me to his house — ” 

“You went to that shack? You 
actually — ” 

“Dear,” said Mom. “You prom- 
ised.” 

A moment of silence. 

Ronnie said, “He took me to his 
house. I met his dad. Mr. Davis is 
lots of fun. He has a beard and he 
paints pictmes and he’s collected 
almost five hundred books.” 

Ronnie’s voice quavered. 

“Gk> on,” said Dad sternly. 

“And I — and Mr. Davis said he’d 
teach me to read them if I prom- 
ised not to tell anybody. So he 
taught me a little every day after 
school — oh. Dad, books are fun to 
read. They tell you things you can’t 

EDWARD W. LUDWIG 




see on the video or hear on the 
tapes.** 

“How long ago did all this start? 
“T — two years ago.*’ 

Dad rose, fists clenched, staring 
strangely at nothing. 

“Two years,** he breathed. “I 
thought I had a good son, and yet 
for two years-^** He shook his head 
unbelievingly. “Maybe it*s my own 
fault. Maybe 1 shouldn’t have come 
to this small town. 1 should have 
taken a house in Washington in- 
stead of trying to commute.” 
“David,” said Mom, very serious- 
ly, almost as if she were praying, 
“it won’t be necessary to have him 
memory- washed, will it?” 

Dad looked at Mom, frowning* 
Then he gazed at Ronnie. His soft- 
spoken words were as ominous as 
the low growl of thunder: 

“I don’t know, Edith* I don’t 
know.” 



D ad Strode to his easy chair 
by the fireplace. He sank into 
its foam-rubber softness, sighing. 
He murmured a syllable into a tiny 
ball-mike on the side of the chair. 
A metallic hand raised a lighted 
cigarette to his lips. 

“Come here, son.” 

Ronnie followed and sat on the 
hassock by Dad’s feet. 

“Maybe I’ve never really ex- 
plained things to you, Ronnie. You 
see, you won’t always be a boy. 
Someday you’ll have to find a way 
of making a living. You’ve only two 
choices: You work for the govern- 
ment, like I do, or for a corpora- 
tion.” 

Ronnie blinked. “Mr. Davis 
JUVENILE DELINQUENT 



doesn’t work for the government or 
for a corpor-ation.” 

“Mr. Davis isn’t normal,” Dad 
snapped. “He’s a hermit. No decent 
family would let him in their house. 
He grows his own food and some- 
times he takes care of gardens for 
people. I want you to have more 
than that. 1 want you to have a nice 
home and be respected by people.” 

Dad puffed furiously on his ciga- 
rette. 

“And you can’t get ahead if 
people know you’ve been a Reader. 
That’s something you can’t live 
down. No matter how hard you try, 
people always stumble upon the 
trudi.” 

Dad cleared his throat. “You see, 
when you get a job, all the informa- 
tion you handle will have a classi- 
fication. It’ll be Restricted, Low- 
Confidential, Confidential, High- 
Confidential, Secret, Top-Secret 
And all this information will be in 
writing. No matter what you do, 
you’ll have access to some of this 
information at one time or an- 
other.” 

“B— but why do these things 
have to be so secret?” Ronnie asked. 

“Because of competitors, in the 
case of corporations — or because 
of enemy nations in the case of 
government work. The written 
material you might have access to 
could describe secret weapons and 
new processes or plans for next 
year’s advertising—maybe even a 
scheme for, er, liquidation of a 
rival. If all facts and policies were 
made public, there might be crit- 
icism, controversy, opposition by 
certain groups. The less people 
know about things, the better. So 

67 




we haye to keep all these things 
secret.” 

Ronnie scowled. “But if things 
are written down, someone has to 
read them, don’t they?” 

“Sure, son. One person in ten 
thousand might reach the point 
where his corporation or bureau 
will teach him to read. But you 
prove your ability and loyalty first. 
By the time you’re 35 or 40, they 
might want you to learn to read. 
But for young people and children 
— ^well, it just isn’t done. Why, the 
President himself wasn’t trusted to 
learn till he was nearly fifty!” 

Dad straightened his shoulders. 
“Look at me. I’m only 30, but I’ve 
been a messenger for Secret ma- 
terial already. In a few years, if 
things go well, I should be handling 
To/?-Secret stuff. And who knows? 
Maybe by the time I’m 50 I’ll be 
giving orders instead of carrying 
them. Then I’ll learn to read, too. 
That’s the right way to do it.” 
Ronnie shffted uncomfortably on 
the hassock. “But can’t a Reader 
get a job that’s not so important. 
Like a barber or a plumber or — ” 
“Don’t you understand? The 
barber and plumbing equipment 
corporations set up their stores and 
hire men to work for them. You 
think they’d hire a Reader? Peo- 
ple’d say you were a spy or a sub- 
versive or that you’re crazy like old 
man Davis.” 

“Mr. Davis isn’t crazy. And he 
isn’t old. He’s young, just like you, 
and—” 

“Ronnie!” 

Dad’s voice was knife-sharp and 
December-cold. Ronnie slipp^ off 
the hassock as if struck physically 

68 



by the fury of the voice. He sat 
sprawled on his small posterior, 
fresh fear etched on his thin fea- 
tures. 

“Damn it, son, how could you 
even think of being a Reader? 
You’ve got a life-sized, 3-D video 
here, and we put on the smell and 
touch and heat attachments just for 
you. You can listen to any tape in 
the world at school. Ronnie, don’t 
you realize I’d lose my job if peo- 
ple knew I had a Reader for a 
son?” 

“B— but, Daddy—” 

Dad jumped to his feet. “I hate 
to say it, Edith, but we’ve got to 
put this boy in a reformatory. May- 
be a good memory-wash will take 
some of the nonsense out of him!” 

Ronnie suppressed a sob. “No, 
Daddy, don’t let them take away 
my brain. Please — 

Dad stood very tall and very 
stiff, not even looking at him. “They 
won’t take your brain, ju^t your 
memory for the past two years.” 

A comer of Mom’s mouth 
twitched. “David, I didn’t want 
anything like this. I thought maybe 
Ronnie could have a few private 
psychiatric treatments. They can 
do wonderful things now — permi- 
hypnosis, creations of artificial psy- 
chic blocks. A memory-wash would 
mean that Ronnie’d have the mind 
of a six-year-old child again. He’d 
have to start to school all over 
again.” 

Dad returned to his chair. He 
buried his face in trembling hands, 
and some of his anger seemed re- 
placed by despair. “Lord, Edith, I 
don’t know what to do.” 



EDWARD W. LUDWIG 




He looked up abruptly, as if 
struck by a chilling new thought. 
“You can’t keep a two-year 
memory-wash a secret. I never 
thought of that before. Why, that 
alone would mean the end of my 
promotions.” 

Silence settled over the room, 
punctuated only by the ticking of 
the antique clock. All movement 
seemed frozen, as if the room lay 
at the bottom of a cold, thick sea. 
“David,” Mom finally said. 
“Yes?” 

“There’s only one solution. We 
can’t destroy two years of Ronnie’s 
memory^ — you said that yourself. So 
we’ll have to take him to a psychia- 
trist or maybe a psychoneurologist. 
A few short treatments — ” 

Dad interrupted: “But he’d still 
remember how to read, uncon- 
sciously anyway. Even permi-hyp- 
nosis would wear off in time. The 
boy can’t keep going to psychiatrists 
for the rest of his life.” 

Thoughtfully he laced his fingers 
together. “Edith, what kind of a 
book was he reading?” 

A tremor passed through Mom’s 
slender body. “There were three 
books on his bed. I’m not sure 
which one he was actually reading.” 
Dad groaned. ^*Three of them. 
Did you burn them?” 

“No, dear, not yet.” 

“Why not?” 

“I don’t know. Ronnie seemed to 
like them so much. I thought that 
maybe tonight, after you’d seen 
them — ” 

“Get them, damn it. Let’s burn 
the filthy things.” 

Mom went to a mahogany chest 
in the dining room, produced three 



faded volumes. She put them on the 
hassock at Dad’s feet. 

Dad gingerly turned a cover. His 
lips curled in disgust as if he were 
touching a rotting corpse. 

“Old,” he mused, “ — so very old. 
Ironic, isn’t it? Our lives are being 
wrecked by things that should have 
been destroyed and forgotten a hun- 
dred years ago.” 

A sudden frown contorted his 
dark features. 

Tick-de-tock, tick~de~tock, said 
the antique clock. 

“A hundred years old,” he re- 
peated. His mouth became a hard, 
thin line. “Edith, I think I know 
why Ronnie wanted to read, why he 
fell into the trap so easily.” 

“What do you mean, David?” 

Dad nodded at the clock, and 
the slow, smouldering anger re- 
turned to his face. “It’s your fault, 
Edith. You’ve always liked old 
things. That clock of your great- 
great-grandmother’s. Those old 
prints on the wall. That stamp col- 
lection you started for Ronnie — 
stamps dated way back to the 
1940’s.” 

Mom’s face paled. “I don’t un- 
derstand.” 

“You’ve interested Ronnie in old 
things. To a child in its formative 
years, in a pleasant house, these 
things symbolize peace and security. 
Ronnie’s been conditioned from the 
very time of his birth to like old 
things. It was natural for him to be 
attracted by books. And we were 
just too stupid to realize it.” 

Mom whispered hoarsely, “I’m 
sorry, David.” 

Hot anger flashed in Dad’s eyes. 
“It isn’t enough to be sorry. Don’t 

69 



JUVENILE DELINQUENT 




you see what this means? Ronnie’ll 
have to be memory-washed back to 
the time of birth. He’ll have to start 
life all over again.” 

“No, David, no!” 

“And in my position I can’t 
afford to have an eight-year-old 
son with the mind of a new-born 
baby. It’s got to be Abandonment, 
Edith, there’s no other way. The 
boy can start life over in a re- 
formatory, with a complete mem- 
ory-wash. He’ll never know we 
existed, and he’ll never bother us 
again.” 

Mom ran up to Dad. She put her 
hands on his shoulders. Great sobs 
burst from her shaking body. 

“You can’t, David! I won’t 
let—” 

He slapped her then with the 
palm of his hand. The sound was 
like a pistol shot in the hot, tight 
air. 

Dad stood now like a colossus 
carved of black ice. His right hand 
was still upraised, ready to strike 
again. 

Then his hand fell. His mind 
seemed to be toying with a new 
thought, a new concept. 

He seized one of the books on the 
hassock. 

“Edith,” he said crisply, “just 
what was Ronnie reading? What’s 
the name of this book?” 

'"The — The Adventures of Tom 
Sawyer/* said Mom through her 
sobs. 

He grabbed the second book, 
held it before her shimmering vi- 
sion. 

“And the name of this?” 

"Tarzan of The Apes** Mom’s 
voice was a barely audible croak. 

70 



“Who’s the author?” 

“Edgar Rice Burroughs.” 

“And this one?” 

"The Wizard of Oz.** 

“Who wrote it?” 

“L. Frank Baum.” 

He threw the books to the floor. 
He stepped backward. His face 
was a mask combined sorrow, 
disbelief, and rage. 

"Edith.** He spat the name as if 
it were acid on his tongue. “Edith, 
you can read!** 

M om sucked in her sobs. Her 
chalk-white cheeks were still 
streaked with rivulets of tears. 

“I’m sorry, David. I’ve never told 
anyone — ^not even Ronnie. I 
haven’t read a book, haven’t even 
looked at one since we were mar- 
ried. I’ve tried to be a good wife — ** 
“A good wife.” Dad sneered. His 
face was so ugly that Ronnie looked 
away. 

Mom continued, “I — I learned 
when I was just a girl. I was young 
like Ronnie. You Imow how young 
people are — ^reckless, eager to do 
forbidden things.” 

“You lied to me,” Dad snapped. 
“For ten years you’ve lied to me. 
WTiy did you want to read, Edith? 
Why?** 

Mom was silent for a few sec- 
onds. She was breathing heavily, 
but no longer crying. A cahnness 
entered her features, and for the 
first time tonight Ronnie saw no 
fear in her eyes. 

“I wanted to read,” she said, her 
voice firm and proud, “because, as 
Ronnie said, it’s fun. The video’s 
nice, with its dancers and lovers and 

EDWARD W. LUDWIG 




Indians and spacemen — but some- 
times you want more than that. 
Sometimes you want to know how 
people feel deep inside and how 
they think. And there are beautiful 
words and beautiful thoughts, just 
like there are beautiful paintings. It 
isn’t enough just to hear them and 
then forget them. Sometimes you 
want to keep the words and 
thoughts before you because in that 
way you feel that they belong to 
you.” 

Her words echoed in the room 
until absorbed by the ceaseless, tick- 
ing clock. Mom stood straight and 
unashamed. Dad’s gaze traveled 
slowly to Ronnie, to Mom, to the 
clock, back and forth. 

At last he said, “Get out.” 

Mom stared blankly. 

“Get out. Both of you. You can 
send for your things later. I never 
want to see either of you again.” 
“David—” 

“I said get out!” 

Ronnie and Mom left the house. 
Outside, the night was dark and a 
wind was rising. Mom shivered in 



her thin house cloak. 

“Where will we go, Ronnie? 
Where, where — ” 

“I know a place. Maybe we can 
stay there — ^for a little while.” 

“A little while?” Mom echoed. 
Her mind seemed frozen by the 
cold wind. 

Ronnie led her through the cold, 
windy streets. They left the lights 
of the town behind them. They 
stumbled over a rough, dirt country 
road. They came to a small, rough- 
boarded house in the deep shadow 
of an eucalyptus grove. The win- 
dows of the house were like friendly 
eyes of warm golden light. 

An instant later a door opened 
and a small boy ran out to meet 
them. 

“Hi, Kenny.” 

“Hi. Who’s that? Your mom?” 

“Yep. Mr. Davis in?” 

“Sure.” 

And a kindly-faced, bearded 
young man appeared in the golden 
doorway, smiling. 

Ronnie and Mom stepped in- 
side. • • • 



The Greatest Hoax of All! 

WHEN A MAN believes in something, what is supreme disil- 
lusionment? In the December issue, James E. Gunn tells the 
thrilling story of a young space cadet who finally gets the chance 
of a lifetime but discovers that a spaceman is made of other 
things than schools and heroes and traditions. It’s called HOAX 
and it’s one of Mr. Gunn’s very best! . . . ALSO in this issue are 
such top-flight stories as THE EARTHMAN, by Irving Cox, Jr. ; 
THE BARBARIANS, by Tom Godwin; THE LABORATORY, 
by Jerome Bixby; and still others by James McKimmey, Jr., 
Alice Jones, George Smith ... So don’t miss the exciting Decem- 
ber issue of IF — on sale the 12th of October. 



JUVENILE DELINQUENT 



71 





The problems of space were multiple enough without the 



opinions and treachery of Senator McKelvie — who really put 



the "fat into the fire”. All Kevin had to do was get it out . . . 



SLOW BUBN 



BY HENRY STILL 



ELL ’EM to look sharp, Bert. 
JL This pickup’s got to be good.” 
Kevin Morrow gulped the last 
of his coffee and felt its bitter acid 
gurgle around his stomach. He 
stared moodily through the plastic 
port where the spangled slurt of 
stars glittered against the black 
satin of endless night and a familiar 
curve of the space station swung 
ponderously around its hub. 

Four space-suited tugmen floated 
languidly outside the rim. Beyond 
them the gleaming black and white 



moonship tugged gently at her 
mooring lines, as though anxious to 
be off. 

Bert Alexander radioed quiet in- 
structions to the tugmen. 

“Why the hell couldn’t he stay 
down there and mind his own busi- 
ness?” Kevin growled. “McKelvie’s 
been after our hide ever since we 
got the appropriation, and now 
this.” He slapped the flimsy radio- 
gram. 

He looked up as the control room 
hatch opened. Jones came in from 

72 




the astronomy section. 

“Morning, commander,” he said. 
“You guys had breakfast yet? Mess 
closes in 30 minutes.” Kevin shook 
his head. 

“We’re not hungry,” Bert filled 
in. 

“You think you’ve got nerves?” 
Jones chuckled. “I just looked in on 
Mark. He’s sleeping like a baby. 
You wouldn’t think the biggest day 
of his life is three hours away.” 

“McKelvie’s coming up to ki- 
bitz,” Morrow said. 

“McKelvie!” 

“The one and only,” Bert said. 
“Here, read all about it.” 

He handed over the morning fac- 
simile tom off the machine when 
the station hurtled over New Eng- 
land at 18,000 miles an hour. The 
upper half of the sheet bore a pic- 
ture of the white-maned senator. 
Clearly etched on his face were the 
lines of too many half-rigged elec- 
tions, too many compromises. 

Beneath the picture were quotes 
from his speech the night before. 

“As chairman of your congres- 
sional watchdog committee,” the 
senator had said, “I’ll see that 
there’s no more waste and corrup- 
tion on this space project. For three 
years they’ve been building a rocket 
— the moon rocket, they c^l it — out 
there at the space station.” 

“I haven’t seen that rocket,” the 
senator had continued. “All I’ve 
seen is five billion of your tax dol- 
lars flying into the vacuum of space. 
They tell me a man named Mark 
Kramer is going to fly out in that 
rocket and circle the moon. 

“But he will fail,” McKelvie 
had promised. “If Gkwi had in- 

74 



tended man to fly to the moon, he 
would have given us wings to do 
it. Tomorrow I shall fly out to this 
space station, even at the risk of my 
life. I’ll report the waste and cor- 
ruption out there, and I’ll report 
the failure of the moon rocket.” 

Jones crumpled the paper and 
aimed at the waste basket. 

“Pardon me while I vomit,” he 
said. 

“We’ve been there,” Kevin 
sighed deeply. “I suppose Max 
Gordon will be happy.” 

“He’ll wear a hole in his tongue 
on McKelvie’s boots,” Bert said 
bitterly. 

“Is it that bad?”. 

“How else would he get a first 
class spaceman’s badge?” Morrow 
said. “He can’t add two and two. 
But if stool pigeons had wings, he’d 
fly like a jet. We can’t move up 
here without McKelvie knowing 
and howling about it. 

“Don’t worry,” Jones said, “If 
the moon rocket makes it, public 
opinion will take care of the sena- 
tor.” 

“If he doesn’t take care of us 
first,” Kevin said darkly. “He’ll be 
aboard in 15 minutes.” 

Dawn touched the High Sierras 
as the station whirled in from the 
Pacific, 500 miles high. 

“Bert. Get me a radar fix on 
White Sands.” 

Morrow huddled over the small 
computer, feeding in radar in- 
formation as it came from his as- 
sistant. 

“Rocket away!” Blared a radio 
speaker on the bulkhead. The same 
message carried to the four space- 

HENRY STILL 




suited tugmen floating beyond the 
rim of the wheel, linked with life- 
lines. 

Jones watched interestedly out 
the port. 

“There she is!” he yelled. 

Sunlight caught the ascending 
rocket, held it in a splash of light. 
The intercept technique was rou- 
tine now, a matter of timing, but 
for a moment Kevin succumbed to 
the frightening optical illusion that 
the rocket was approaching apex 
far below the station. Then, slowly, 
the slender cylinder matched veloc- 
ity and pulled into the orbit, crept 
to its destination. 

With deceptive ease, the four hu- 
man tugs attached magnetic shoes 
and guided the projectile into the 
space station hub with short, ex- 
pert blasts of heavy rocket pistols. 

“Take over Bert,” Morrow di- 
rected, “I guess Fm the official 
greeter.” He hurried out of the con- 
trol room, through a short connect- 
ing tube and emerged floating in 
the central space surrounding the 
hub where artificial gravity fell to 
zero. Air pressure was normal to 
transfer passengers without space 
suits. 

The connecting lock clanked 
open. The rocket pilot stepped out. 

“He got sick,” the pilot whis- 
pered to Kevin. “I swabbed him 
off, but he’s hoppin’ mad.” 

The senator’s mop of white hair 
appeared in the port. Kevin braced 
to absorb a tirade, but McKelvie’s 
deep scowl changed to an expres- 
sion of bliss as he floated weightless 
into the tiny room. 

“Why, this is wonderful!” he 
sputtered. He waved his arms like a 

SLOW BURN 



bird and kicked experimentally with 
a foot. 

“Grab him!” Kevin shouted. 
“He’s gone happy with it.” 

The pilot was too late. McKel- 
vie’s body sailed gracefully through 
the air and his head smacked the 
bulkhead. His eyes glazed in a froz- 
en expression of carefree happiness. 

Kevin swore. “Now he’ll accuse 
us of a plot against his life. Help 
me get him to sick bay.” 

The two men guided the weight- 
less form into a tube connecting 
with the outer ring. As they pushed 
outward, McKelvie’s weight in- 
creased until they carried him the 
last 50 feet into the dispensary com- 
partment. 

Max Gordon burst wild-eyed into 
the room. 

“What have you done to the 
senator?” he shouted. “Why didn’t 
you tell me he was coming up?” 
Morrow made sure McKelvie was 
receiving full medical attention be- 
fore he turned to the junior officer. 

“He went space happy and 
bumped his head,” Kevin said curt- 
ly, “and there was no more reason 
to notify you than the rest of the 
crew.” He walked away. Gordon 
bent solicitously over his uncon- 
scious patron. 

Kevin found Anderson in the 
passageway. 

“I ordered them to start fueling 
Moonbeam,” Bert said. 

“Good. Is Mark awake?” 

“Eating breakfast. The psycho’s 
giving him a clinical chat.” 

“I wish it were over.” Morrow 
brushed back his hair. 

“You’ve really got the jitters, 
huh chief?” 

75 




Morrow turned angrily and then 
tried to laugh. 

“I’d sell my job for a nickel right 
now, Bert. This will be touch and 
go, without having the worst enemy 
of space flight aboard. If this ship 
fails, it’s more than a rocket or the 
death of a man. It’ll set the whole 
program back 50 years.” 

“I know,” Bert answered, “but 
he’ll make it.” 

Footsteps sounded in the tube 
outside the cabin. Mark Kramer 
walked in. 

“Hi, chief,” he grinned, “Moon- 
beam ready to go?” 

“The techs are out now and 
fuel’s aboard. How about you? 
Shouldn’t you get some rest?” 
“That’s all I’ve had since they 
shipped me out here.” Kramer 
laughed. “It’ll be a snap. After all, 
I’ll never make over two gees and 
pick up 7000 mph to leave you guys 
behind. Then I play ring around 
the rosy, take a look at Lima’s off 
side and come home. Just like that.” 
“Just like that,” Kevin whispered 
meditatively. TTie moon rocket, 
floating there outside the station’s 
rim was ugly, designed never to 
touch a planet’s atmosphere, but it 
was the most beautiful thing man 
had ever built, assembled in space 
from individu^ fragments boosted 
laboriously from the Earth’s surface. 

Another clatter of footsteps ap- 
proached the hatch. Max Gordon 
entered and stood at attention as 
Senator McKelvie made a dignified 
entrance. The senator wore an ad- 
hesive patch on his high forehead. 
He turned to Kramer. 

“Young man,” he rumbled, “are 
you the fool risking your life in 

76 



that — ^that thing out there? Yoai 
must know it’ll never reach the 
moon. I know it’ll never — ” 

Kramer’s face paled slightly and 
he moved swiftly between the two 
men. Without using force, he 
backed the senator and (Jordon 
through the hatch and slammed it 
behind him. Anger was a knot of 
green snakes in his belly. 

“I want to talk to that pilot,” 
McKelvie said belligerently. 

“I’m sorry, senator. The best psy- 
chiatrists on Earth worked eight 
months to condition Kramer for 
this flight. He must not be emo- 
tionally disturbed. You can’t talk 
to him.” 

“You forbid. . . ?” McKelvie 
exploded, but Morrow intercepted 
smoothly. 

“Gordon. I’m sure the senator 
would like a tour of the station. 
Will you escort him?” 

McKelvie’s face reddened and 
Max opened his mouth to object. 

“Gk>rdon!” Morrow said sharply. 
Max closed his mouth and guided 
the grumbling congressman up the 
tube. 



66rpWENTY MINUTES to 

-I- blastoff,” Bert reported. 

“Right,” Kevin acknowledged 
absendy. He studied taped data 
moving in by radio facsimile from 
the mammodi electronic computer 
on Earth. 

“Our orbit’s true,” he said with 
satisfaction and wiped a sweaty 
palm on his trousers. “(Jet the time 
check, Bert.” Beeps from the Naval 
Observatory syndironized with the 
space station chronometer. 

HENRY STILL 




^‘Alert Kramer,” 

“He*s leaving the airlock now,” 
Bert said. From the intercom, Mor- 
row listened to periodic reports 
from crew members as McKelvie 
and Gordon progressed in their 
tour. 

“Mr. Morrow?” 

“Right.” 

“This is Adams in Section M. 
The senator and Gordon have been 
in the line chamber for 10 minutes.” 
“Boot ’em out,” Kevin said crisp- 
ly. “Blastoff in 15 minutes.” 

“That machinery controls the 
safety lines,” Bert said. 

Kevin looked up with a puzzled 
frown, but turned back to watch 
Kramer creeping along a mooring 
line to the moon ship. A group of 
tugmen helped the space-suited fig- 
ure into the rocket, dogged shut the 
hatch and cleared back to the sta- 
tion rim. 

“Station to Kramer,” on the 
radio, “are you ready.” 

“All set,” came the steady voice, 
“give me the word.” 

“All right. Five minutes.” Kevin 
turned to the intercom. “Release 
safety lines.” 

In the weightlessness of space 
the cables retained their normal 
rigid line from the rim of the station 
to the rocket. They had been under 
no strain. Their shape would not 
change until they were reeled in. 

“Two minutes,” Morrow warned. 
Tension grew as Anderson began 
the slow second count. The hatch 
opened. McKelvie and Gordon en- 
tered the control room. No one no- 
ticed it, 

“Five . . . four . • . three . . • two 
. . . one . . .” 

SLOW BURN 



A gout of white fire jabbed from 
the stem of the rocket. Slowly the 
ship moved forward. 

Morrow watched tensely, hands 
gripping a safety rail. 

Then his face froze in a mask of 
disbelief and horror. 

“The lines!” he shouted. “The 
safety lines fouled!” 

He fell sprawling as the space 
station lurched heavily, tipped up- 
ward like a giant platter under the 
inexorable pull of the moon rocket. 

Kevin scrambled back to the 
viewport, the shriek of tortured 
metal in his ears. Horror-stricken, 
he saw the taut cables that had 
failed to release. Then a huge sec- 
tion of nylon, aluminum and rubber 
ripped out of the station wall, was 
visible a second in the rocket glare, 
and vanished. 

Escaping air whistled through 
the crippled structure. Pressure 
dropped alarmingly before the 
series of automatic airlocks clat- 
tered reassuringly shut. 

Kevin’s hand was bleeding. He 
staggered with the frightening new 
motion of the space station. Gordon 
and the senator had collapsed 
against a bulkhead. McKelvie’s pale 
face twisted with fear and amaze- 
ment. Blood streaked down the pink 
curve of his forehead. 

Individual station reports trickled 
through the intercom. Miraculous- 
ly, the bulk of the station had es- 
caped damage. 

“Line chamber’s gone,” Adams 
reported. “Other bulkheads hold- 
ing, but something must have 
jammed the line machines. They 
ripped right out.” 

“Get repair crews in to patch 

77 




leaks,’* Morrow shouted. He turned 
frantically to the radio. “Station to 
Moonbeam. Kramer! Are you all 
right.” 

He waited an agonizing minute, 
then a scratchy voice came through. 

“Kramer, here. What the hell 
happened? Something gave me a 
terrific yaw, but'the gyro pulled me 
back on course. Fuel consumption 
high. Otherwise I’m okay.” 

“You ripped out part of the sta- 
tion,” Kevin yelled. “You’re towing 
extra mass. Release the safety lines 
if you can.” 

The faint answer came back, gar- 
bled by static. 

Another disaster halted a new try 
to reach him. 

With a howling rumble, the mas- 
sive gyroscope case in the bulkhead 
split open. The heavy wheel, spin- 
ning at 20,000 revolutions per min- 
ute, slowly and majestically crawled 
out of its gimbals; the gyroscope 
that stabilized the entire structure 
remained in its plane of revolution, 
but ripped out of its moorings 
when die station was forcibly tilted. 

Spinning like a giant top, the 
gyro walked slowly across the deck. 
McKelvie and Gordon scrambled 
out of its way. 

“It’ll go through!” Bert shouted. 
Kevin leaped to a chest of emer- 
gency patches. 

The wheel ripped through the 
magnesium shell like a knife in soft 
cheese. A gaping rent opened to the 
raw emptiness of space, but Morrow 
was there with the patch. Before 
decompression could explode the 
four creatures of blood and bone, 
the patch slapped in place, sealed 
by the remaining air pressure. 

78 



Trembling violently, Kevin stag- 
gered to a chair and collapsed. Si- 
lence rang in his ears. Anderson 
gripped the edge of a table to keep 
from falling. Kevin turned slowly 
to McKelvie and Gordon. 

“Come here,” he said tonelessly. 

“Now see here, young man — 
the senator blustered. 

“I said come here!” 

The two men obeyed. The com- 
mander’s voice held a new edge of 
steel. 

“You were the last to leave the 
line control room,” he said. “Did 
you touch that machinery?** 

Gordon’s face was the color of 
paste. His mouth worked like a 
suffocating fish. McKelvie recov- 
ered his bluster. 

“I’m a United States senator,” 
he stuttered, “I’ll not be threat- 
ened . . .” 

“I’m not threatening you,” Kevin 
said, “but if you fouled that ma- 
chinery to assure your prediction 
about the rocket, I’ll see that you 
hang. Do you realize that gyro- 
scope was the only control we had 
over the motion of this space sta- 
tion? Whatever it does now is the 
result of the moon rocket’s pull. We 
may not live to see that rocket 
again.” 

As though verifying Morrow’s 
words, the lights dimmed mo- 
mentarily and returned to normal 
brilliance. A frightened voice came 
from the squawkbox. 

“Hey, chief! This is power con- 
trol. We’ve lost the sun!” 

Anderson looked out the port, 
studied the slowly wheeling stars. 

“Mother of God,” he breathed, 
“we’re flopping . . . like a flapjack 

HENRY STILL 




over a stove.” 

And the power mirrors were on 
only one face of the space station, 
mirrors that collected the sun’s radi- 
ation and converted it to power. 
Now they were collecting nothing 
but the twinkling of the stars. 

The vital light would return as 
the station continued its new, awk- 
ward rotation, but would the inter- 
mittent exposure be sufficient to 
sustain power? 

“Shut down everything but emer- 
gency equipment,” Morrow di- 
rected. “When we get back on the 
sun, soak every bit of juice you can 
into those batteries.” He turned to 
Gordon and McKelvie. “Won’t it 
be interesting if we freeze to death, 
or suffocate when the air machines 
stop?” 

Worry replaced anger as he 
turned abruptly away from them. 

“We’ve got a lot of work to do, 
Bert,” he said crisply. “See if you 
can get White Sands.” 

“It’s over the horizon. I’ll try 
South Africa.” Anderson worked 
with the voice radio but static ob- 
literated reception. “Here comes a 
Morse transmission,” he said at last. 
Morrow read slowly as tape fed out 
of the translator: 

“Radar shows moon rocket in 
proper trajectory. Where are you?” 

The first impulse was to dash to 
the viewport and peer out. But 
that would be no help in determin- 
ing position. 

“Radar, Bert,” he whispered. An- 
derson verniered’ in the scope, meas- 
uring true distance to Earth’s sur- 
face. He read the figure, swore vio- 
lently, and readjusted the instru- 
ment. 



“It can’t be,” he muttered at last. 
“This says we’re 865 miles out.” 

“365 miles outside our orbit?” 
Morrow said calmly. “I was afraid 
of that. That tug from the Moon- 
beam not only cart-wheeled u% it 
yanked us out.” He snatched a sheet 
of graph paper out of a desk draw- 
er and penciled a point. 

“Give me a reading every 10 
seconds.” 

Points began to connect in a 
curve. 

And the curve was something 
new. 

“Get Jones from astronomy,” 
Kevin said at last. “He can help us 
plot and maybe predict.” 

When the astronomer arrived 
minutes later, the space station was 
1700 miles above the Earth, still 
shearing into space on an ascending 
curve. 

“Get a quick look at this, Jones,” 
Kevin spoke rapidly. “See if you 
can tell where it will be two hours 
from now.” 

The astronomer studied the 
curve intently as it continued to 
grow under Kevin’s pencil. 

“It may be an outward spiral,” 
he said haltingly, “or it could be a 
. . . parabola.” 

“No!” Bert protested. “That 
would throw us into space. We 
couldn’t—” 

“We couldn’t get back,” Kevin 
finished grimly. “There’d better be 
an alternative.” 

“It could be an ellipse,” Jones 
said. 

“It must be an ellipse,” Bert said 
eagerly. “The Moonbeam couldn’t 
save given us 7000 mph velocity.” 

Abruptly the lights went out. 



SLOW BURN 



79 




The radar scope faded from 
green to black. Morrow swore a 
string of violent oaths, realizing in 
the same instant that anger was use- 
less when the power mirrors lost the 
sun. 

He bellowed into the intercom, 
but the speaker was dead. Already 
Bert was racing down the tube to 
the power compartment. Minutes 
later, the intercom dial flickered 
red. Morrow yelled again. 

“You’ve got to keep power to this 
radar set for the next half-hour. 
Everything else can stop, even the 
air machines, but we’ve got to find 
out where we’re going. 

The space station turned again. 
Power resumed and Kevin picked 
up the plot. 

“We’re 6000 miles out!” he 
breathed. 

“But it’s flattening,” Jones cried. 
“The curve’s flattening!” Bert loped 
back into the control room. Jones 
snatched the pencil from his su- 
perior. 

“Here,” he said quickly, “I can 
see it now. Here’s the curve. It’s 
an ellipse all right.” 

“It’ll carry us out 9600 miles,” 
Bert gasped. “No one’s ever been 
out that far.” 

“All right,” Morrow said. “That 
crisis is past. The next question is 
where are we when we come back 
on nadir. Bert, tell the crew what’s 
going on. Jones, you can help me. 
We’ve got to pick up White Sands 
and get a fuel rocket up here to 
push.” 

“Good Lord, look at that!” Jones 
breathed. He stared out the port. 
The Earth, a dazzling huge globe 
filling most of the heavens, swam 

80 



slowly past the plastic window. It 
was the first time they had been 
able to see more than a convex seg- 
ment of oceans and continents. 
Kevin looked, soberly, and turned 
to the radio. 

The power did not fail in the 
next crazy rotation of the station. 

“There’s the West Coast.” Kevin 
pointed. “In a few minutes I can 
get White Sands, I hope.” 

Jones had taken over the radar 
plot. At last his pencil reached a 
peak and the curve started down. 
The station had reached the limit 
of its wild plimge into space. 

“Good,” Kevin muttered. “See 
if you can extrapolate that ciuve 
and get us an approximation where 
we’ll cut in over the other side.” 
The astronomer figured rapidly and 
abstractedly. 

“May I remind you yoimg man,” 
McKelvie’s voice boomed^ “you 
have a United States senator 
aboard. If anything happens — 

“If anything happens, it happens 
to all of us,” Kevin answered cold- 
ly. “When you’re ready to tell me 
what did happen, I’m ready to lis- 
ten. 

Silence. 

“White Sands, this is Station I. 
Come in please.” 

Kevin tried to keep his voice 
calm, but the lives of 90 men rode 
on it, on his ability to project his 
words through the crazy hash of 
static lacing this part of space from 
the multitude of radio stars. A 
power rocket with extra fuel was 
the only instrument that could re- 
turn the space station to its normal 
orbit. 

That rocket must come from 
HENRY STILL 




White Sands. 

White Sands did not answer. 

He tried again, turned as an ex- 
clamation of dismay burst from the 
astronomer. Morrow bent to look 
at the plotting board. 

Jones had sketched a circle of the 
Earth, placing it in the heart of the 
ellipse the space station was draw- 
ing around it. 

From 9600 miles out, the line 
curved down and down, and 
down . . . 

But it did not meet the point 
where the station had departed 
from its orbit 500 miles above 
Earth’s surface. 

The line came down and aroimd 
to kiss the Earth — almost. 

“I hope it’s wrong,” Jones said 
huskily. “If I’m right, we’ll come 
in 87 miles above the surface.” 

“It can’t!” Morrow shouted in 
frustration. “We’ll hit stratosphere. 
It’ll bum us — ^just long enough so 
we’ll feel the agony before we die.” 

Jones rechecked his figures and 
shook his head. The line was still 
the same. Each 10 seconds it was 
supported by a new radar range. 
The astronomer’s lightning fingers 
worked out a new problem. 

“We have about 75 minutes to do 
something about it,” he said. “We’ll 
be over the Atlantic or England 
when it happens.” 

“Station I, this is . • 

The beautiful, wonderful voice 
burst loud and clear from the radio 
and then vanished in a blurb of 
static. 

“Oh God!” Kevin breathed. It 
was a prayer. 

“We hear you,” he shouted, pro- 
cedure gone with the desperate 

SLOW BURN 



need to communicate with home. 
“Gome in White Sands. Please 
come in!” 

Faintly now the voice blurred in 
and out, lost altogether for vital 
moments: 

“. . . your plot. Altiac computer 
. . . your orbit . . . rocket on stand- 
by ... as you pass.” 

“Yes!” Kevin shouted, gripping 
the short wave set with white fin- 
gers, trying to project his words into 
the microphone, across the dwin- 
dling thousands of miles of space. 
“Yes. Send the rocket!” 

“Gan they do it?” Jones asked. 
“The rocket, I mean.” 

“I don’t know,” Kevin said. 
“They’re all pre-set, mass produced 
now, and fuel is adjusted to come 
into the old orbit. They can be 
rigged, I think, if there’s enough 
time.” 

The coast of California loomed 
below them now, a brown fringe 
holding back the dazzling Rood of 
the Pacific. They were 3000 miles 
above the Earth, dropping sharply 
on the down leg of the ellipse. 

At their present speed, the 
station appeared to be plunging di- 
rectly at the Earth. The globe 
was frighteningly larger each time 
it wobbled across the viewport 
“Shall I call away the tugmen?” 
Bert asked tensely. 

“I can’t ask them to do it,” Kevin 
said. “With this crazy orbit, it’s 
too dangerous. I’m going out,” 

He slipped into his space gear. 
“I’m going with you,” Bert said. 
Kevin smiled his gratitude. 

In the airlock the men armed 
themselves with three heavy rocket 

•1 




pistols each. Morrow ordered other 
tugmen into suits for standby. 

“I wish I could do this alone, 
Bert,” he said soberly. “But I’m 
glad you’re coming along. If we 
miss, there won’t be a second 
chance. 

They knew approximately when 
they would pass over the rocket 
launching base, but this time it 
would be different. The space sta- 
tion would pass at 750 miles alti- 
tude and with a new velocity. No 
one could be sure the feeder rocket 
would make it. Unless maximum 
fuel had been adjusted carefully, 
it might orbit out of reach below 
them. Rescue fuel would take the 
place of a pilot. 



A nderson and Morrow 

L floated clear of the huge wheel, 
turning lazily in the deceptive lux- 
ury of zero gravity. The familiar 
sensation of exhilaration threatened 
to wipe out the urgency they must 
bring to bear on their lone chance 
for survival. They could see the 
jagged hole where the Moonbeam 
had yanked out a section of the 
structure. 

An unintelligible buzz of voice 
murmured in the radios. Uncon- 
sciously Kevin tried to squeeze the 
earphones against his ears, but his 
heavily-gloved hands met only the 
rigid globe of his helmet. 

“You get it, Bert?” 

“No.” 

“This is Jones,” a new voice loud 
and clear. “Earth says 15 seconds 
to blastoff.” 

“Rocket away!” 

Like a tiny, clear bell the words 
82 



emerged from static. Bert and 
Kevin gyrated their bodies so they 
could stare directly at the passing 
panorama of Earth below. They 
had seen it hundreds of times, but 
now 250 more miles of altitude gave 
the illusion they were studying a 
familiar landmark through the 
small end of a telescope. 

“There it is!” Bert shouted. 

A pinpoint of flame, that was it, 
with no apparent motion as it rose 
almost vertically toward them. 

Then a black dot in an infinites- 
imal circle of flame — the rocket sil- 
houetted against its own fire ... as 
big as a dime ... as big as a 
dollar . . . 

... as big as a basketball, the 
circle of flame soared up toward 
them. 

“It’s still firing!” Kevin yelled. 
“It’ll overshoot us.” 

As he spoke, the fire died, but 
the tiny bar of the rocket, black 
against the luminous surface of 
Earth, crawled rapidly up into their 
sector of starlit blackness. Then it 
was above Earth’s horizon, nearly 
to the space station’s orbit, crawling 
slowly along, almost to them — a 
beautiful long cylinder of metal, 
symbol of home and a civilization 
sending power to help them to 
safety. 

Hope flashed through Kevin’s 
mind that he was wrong, that the 
giant computor and the careful 
hands of technicians had matched 
the ship to their orbit after all. 

But he was right. It passed them, 
angling slowly upward not 50 yards 
away. 

Instantly the two men rode the 
rocket blast of their pistols to the 

HENRY STILL 




nose of the huge projectile. But it 
carried velocity imparted by rockets 
that had fired a fraction of a min- 
ute too long. 

Clinging to the metal with mag- 
netic shoes. Morrow and Anderson 
pressed the triggers of the pistols, 
held them down, trying to push the 
cylinder down and back. 

Bert’s heavy breathing rasped in 
the radio as he unconsciously used 
the futile force of his muscles in 
the agonizing effort to' move the 
ship. 

Their pistols gave out almost si- 
multaneously. Bpth reached for an- 
other. Thin streams of propulsive 
gas altered the course of the rocket, 
slightly, but the space station was 
smaller now, angling imperceptibly 
away and down as the rocket 
pressed outward into a new, higher 
orbit. 

The rocket pistols were not 
enough. 

“(>et the hell back here!” Jones’ 
voice blared in their ears. “You 
can’t do it. You’re 20 miles away 
now and angling up. Don’t be dead 
heroes!” The last words were high 
and frantic. 

“We’ve got to!” Morrow an- 
swered. “There’s no other way.” 

“We can’t do the impossible, 
chief,” Bert gasped. 

A group of tiny figures broke 
away from the rim of the space sta- 
tion. The tugmen were coming to 
help. 

Then Kevin grasped the hideous 
truth. There were not enough 
rocket pistols to bring the men to 
the full ship and return with any 
reserve to guide the projectile, 

“Get back!’ he shouted. “Save 



the pistols. We’re coming in.” 

Behind them their only chance 
for life continued serenely upward 
into a new orbit. There, 900 miles 
above the earth, it would revolve 
forever with more fuel in its tanks 
than it needed. 

Fuel that would have saved the 
lives of 90 desperate men. 

By leaving it, Morrow and An- 
derson had bought perhaps 30 
more minutes of life before the 
space station became a huge meteor 
riding its fiery path to death in the 
the upper reaches of the atmos- 
phere. 

Both suffered the guilt of enor- 
mous betrayal. The fact that they 
could have done no more did not 
erase it. 

Frantically, Kevin flipped over in 
his mind the possible tools that still 
could be brought to bear to lift the 
space station above its flaming de- 
struction. But his tools were the 
stone axe of a primitive man trying 
to hack his way out of a forest fire. 

Eager hands pulled them back 
into the station. For a moment 
there were the reassiuing sounds as 
their helmets were unscrewed. Then 
the familiar smells and shape of the 
structure that had been home for 
so long. Now that haven was about 
to destroy itself. 

Then Morrow remembered the 
Earth rocket that had brought Sen- 
ator McKelvie to the great white 
sausage in space. 

That rocket still contained a 
small quantity of fuel. 

If fired at the precise moment, 
that fuel, anchored with the rocket 
in the hub socket, might be enough 

83 



SLOW BURN 




to lift the entire station. 

He shouted instructions and men 
raced to obey. Kevin, himself, raced 
into the nearest tube. There was no 
sound, but ahead of him the hatch 
was open to the discharge chamber. 
He leaped into the zero gravity 
room. 

McKelvie was crawling through 
the connecting port into the feeder 
rocket. Kevin sprawled headlong 
into Gordon. The recoil threw them 
apart, but Gordon recovered bal- 
ance first. 

He had a gun. 

“Get back,” he snarled. “We^re 
going down.” He laughed sharply, 
near hysteria. “We’re going down 
to tell the world how you fried — 
through error and mismanage- 
ment.” 

“You messed up those lines,” 
Kevin said. It didn’t matter now. 
He only hoped to hold Gordon long 
enough for diversionary help to 
come out of the tube. 

“Yes,” Gordon leered. “We fixed 
the lines. The senator wasn’t sure 
we should, but I helped him over 
his squeamishness, and now we’Q 
crack the whip when we get back 
home.” 

“You won’t make it,” Kevin said. 
“We’re still more than 600 miles 
high. The glide pattern in that 
rocket is built to take you down 
from 500 miles.” 

McKelvie’s head appeared in die 
hatch. He was desperately afraid. 

“You said you could fty diis 
thing, Gordon. Can you?” 

Max nodded his head rapidly, 
like a schoolboy asked to recite a 
lesson he has not studied. 

Kevin was against the bulkhead. 

84 



Now he pushed hineelf slowly for- 
ward. 

“Stay back or Fll shoot!” Gordon 
screamed. Instead, he leaped back- 
ward through the hatch. 

Hamper^ by his original slow 
motion, Kevin could not move 
faster until he reached another sedid 
surface. 

The hatch slammed shut before 
his grasping fingers touched it. 

A wrenching tug jostled the space 
station structure. The rocket was 
gone, and with it the power that 
might have saved all of them. 

Morrow ran again. He had not 
stopped running since the begin- 
ning of this nightmare. 

He tumbled over Bert and Jones 
in the tube. They scrambled after 
him back to the control room. The 
three men watched through the 
port. 

“If he doesn’t hit the atmosphere 
too quick, too hard . . .” Kevin 
whispered. His fists were clenched. 
He felt no malice at this moment. 
He did not wish diem death. There 
was no sound in the radio. The 
phrmmeting projectile was a tiny 
black dot, vanishing below and bes 
hind them. 

When the end came, it was a 
mote of orange red, then a dazzling 
smear of white fire as the rocket 
ripped into the atmosphere at near- 
ly 20,000 miles an hour. 

“They’re dead!” Jones voice 
choked with disbelief. Kevin nod- 
ded, but it was a flashing thing that 
lost meaning for him in the same 
instant. He knew that unless a 
miracle happened, ninety men in 
his command would meet tibe same 
fate. 



HENRY STILL 




L ike a perpetual motion ma- 
chine, his brain kept reaching 
for something that could save his 
space station, his own people, the 
iron-nerved spacemen who knew 
they were near death but kept their 
vital posts, waiting for him to find 
a way. 

Stories do not end unhappily — 
that thought kept cluttering his 
brain — a muddy optimism blanking 
out vital things that might be done. 
“What’s the altitude Jones?” 
“520 now. Leveling a bit.” 
“Enough?” It was a stupid ques- 
tion and Kevin knew it. Jones shook 
his head. 

“We might be lucky,” he said. 
“We’ll hit it about 97 miles up. The 
top isn’t a smooth surface, it bil- 
lows and dips. But,” he added, al- 
most a whisper, “we’ll penetrate 
to about 80 miles before . . .” 
“How much time?” Kevin asked 
sharply. A tiny chain of hope linked 
feebly. 

“About 22 minutes.” 

“Bert, order all hands into space 
suits — emergency ! ” 

While the order was being car- 
ried out, Kevin summoned the tug- 
men. 

“How many loaded pistols do we 
have?” 

“Six,” the chief answered. 

“All right. Get this quick. Anchor 
yourselves inside the hub. Aim those 
pistols at the Earth and fire until 
they’re exhausted.” 

The chief stared incredulously. 

“I know it’s crazy,” Kevin 
snapped. “It’s not enough, but if 
it alters our orbit 50 feet, it’ll help.” 
The tugmen ran out. Bert, Kevin 
and Jones scrambled into space 

SLOW BURN 



suits. Morrow called for reports. 

“All hands,” he intoned steadily, 
“open all ports. Repeat. Open all 
ports. Do not question. Follow di- 
rections closely.” 

Ten seconds later, a whoosh of 
escaping air signaled obedience. 

“Now!” Kevin shouted, “grab 
every loose object within reach. 
Throw it at the Earth. Desks, books, 
tools, anything. Throw them down 
with every oimce of strength you’ve 
got!” 

It was insane. Everything was 
insane. It couldn’t possibly be 
enough . . . But space around the 
hurtling station blossomed with 
every conceivable flying object that 
man has ever taken with him to a 
lonely outpost. A pair of shoes went 
tumbling into darkness, and behind 
it the plastic framed photograph of 
someone’s wife and children. 

Jones knew his superior had not 
gone berserk. He bent anxiously 
over the radar scope. 

It was not a matter of jettisoning 
weight. Every action has an equal 
reaction, and the force each man 
gave to a thrown object was as 
effective in its diminuitive way as 
the exhaust from a rocket. 

“Read it!” Morrow shouted. 
“Read it!” 

“265 miles,” Jones cried. “I need 
more readings to tell if it helped.” 

There was no sound in the radio 
circuit, save that of 90 men breath- 
ing, waiting to hear 90 death sen- 
tences. Jones’ heavily-gloved hands 
moved the pencil clumsily over the 
graph paper. He drew a tangent to 
a new curve. 

“It helped,” he said tonelessly, 
“We’ll go in at 100 miles, pene- 

85 




trate to 90 . . 

“Not enough,” Kevin said. “Close 
all ports. Repeat. Close all ports!” 

An unheard sigh breathed 
through the mammoth, complex 
doughnut as automatic machinery 
gave new breath to airless spaces. 

It might never be needed again 
to sustain human life. 

But the presence of air delivered 
one final hope to Morrow’s frantic 
brain. 

“Two three oh miles,” Jones said. 

“Air control,” Kevin barked into 
the mike, “how much pressure can 
you get in 15 minutes?” 

“Air control, aye,” came the an- 
swer, and a pause while the chief 
calculated. “About 50 pounds with 
everything on the line.” 

“Get it on! And hang on to your 
hats,” Kevin yelled. 

The station dropped another 30 
miles, slanting in sharply toward 
the planet’s envelope of gas that 
could sustain life — or take it away. 
Morrow turned to Anderson. 

“Bert. There are four tubes lead- 
ing into the hub. Get men and open 
the outer airlocks. Then standby the 
four inner locks. When I give the 
signal, open those locks, fast. You 
may have to pull to help the ma- 
chinery — ^you’ll be fighting three 
times normal air pressure.” 

Bert ran out. Nothing now but to 
wait. Five minutes passed. Ten. 

“We’re at 135 miles,” Jones said. 
Far below the Earth wheeled by, its 
apparent motion exaggerated as the 
space station swooped lower. 

“120 miles.” 

Kevin’s throat was parched, his 
lips dry. Increasing air pressure 
squeezed the space suits tighter 

86 



around his flesh. A horror of claus- 
trophobia gripped him and he knew 
every man was suffering the same 
torture. 

“110 miles.” 

“Almost there,” Bert breathe^ 
unaware that his words were audi- 
ble. 

Then a new force gripped them, 
at first the touch of a caressing fin- 
ger tip dragging back, ever so slight- 
ly. Kevin staggered as inertia 
tugged him forward. 

“We’re in the air!” he shouted. 
“Bert. Standby the airlocks!” 

“Airlocks ready!” 

The finger was a hand, now, a 
huge hand of tenuous gases, press- 
ing, pressing, but the station still 
ripped throu^ its death medium at 
a staggering 20,000 miles an hour. 

Jones pointed. Morrow’s eyes fol- 
lowed his indicating finger to the 
thermocouple dial. 

The dial said 100^ F. While he 
watched it moved to 105, quickly 
to 110°. 

Five seconds more. A blinding 
pain of tension stabbed Kevin be- 
hind the eyes. But through the 
flashing colors of agony, he counted, 
slowly, deliberately . . . 

“Now!” he shouted. “Open air- 
locks, Bert. NOW!” 

Air rushed out through the con- 
verging spokes of the great wheel, 
poured out under tremendous pres- 
sure, into the open cup of the space 
station hub, and there the force of 
three atmospheres spurted into 
space through the mammoth im- 
provised rocket nozzle. 

Kevin felt the motion. Every man 
of the crew felt the surge as the 

HENRY STILL 




intricate mass of metal and nylon 
leaped upward. 

That was all. 

Morrow watched the tempera- 
ture gauge. It climbed to 135°, to 
140° ... 145 . . .150 . . . 

“The temperature is at 150 de- 
grees,” he announced huskily over 
the radio circuit. “If it goes higher, 
there’s nothing we can do.” 

The needle quivered at 151, 
moved to 152, and held . . . 

Two minutes, three . . . 

The needle stepped back, one 
degree. 

“We’re moving out,” Kevin whis- 
pered. “We’re moving out!” 

The cheer, then, was a ringing, 
deafening roar in the earphones. 
Jones thumped Kevin madly on the 
back and leaped in a grotesque 
dance of joy. 



M orrow leaned back in 

the control chair, pressed tired 
fingers to his temples. He could not 
remember when he had slept. 

The first rocket from White 
Sands had brought power to adjust 
the orbit. This one was on the mark. 

The next three brought the Sen- 
ate investigating committee. 

But that didn’t matter, really. 
Kevin was happy, and he was wait- 
ing. 

The control room door banged 
open. Mark Kramer’s grin was 
like a Hash of warm sunlight. 

“Hi, commander,” he said, 
“wait’ll you see the marvelous pic- 
tures I got.” 

Outside the Moonbeam rode 
gently at anchor, tethered with new 
safety lines. • • • 



COMING-IN THE DECEMBER ISSUE! 

TO BRING YOU a wider and more exciting view of the world of science 
fiction, we are happy to annoimce that, beginning with the December 
issue of IF, we will present a special department by none other than 
“Mr. Science Fiction” himself — Forrest Ackerman, who probably knows 
more about what is happening in science fiction than any other person in 
the world today. His column will include news and views of science^fiction 
movies, books, personalities, events and other items from all over the 
world. 

A resident of Los Angeles, he covers Hollywood and every production 
of a science fiction film. Surrounded by thousands of volumes of books 
and tons of magazines, he knows the past and present of everything that’s 
printed. Host and traveler, he has met and entertained writers, producers, 
scientists, artists and others who are connected with science fiction. He 
hasn’t missed a national convention since he was old enough to crawl, so 
he knows those too! 

So — don’t you miss his entertaining and informative new department 
in the December IF! 



SLOW BURN 



87 





Illustrated by Paul Orban 

What can a priest do when he’s faced with such 
a dilemma — one which requires him to gainsay the 
very foundations of the faith which he represents? 








OMEWHERE IN the church 
a baby was shrieking. Father 
Courtney listened to it, and sighed, 
and made the Sign of the Cross. 
Another battle, he thought, dis- 
mally. Another grand tug of war. 
And who won this time. Lord? Me? 
Or that squalling infant, bless its 
innocence? 

“In the Name of the Father, and 
of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. 
Amen.” 

He turned and made his way 
down the pulpit steps, and told 
himself. Well, you ought to be used 
to it by now. Heaven knows. After 
all, you’re a priest, not a monologist. 
What do you care about “audience 
reaction”? And besides, who ever 
listens to these sermons of yours, 
anyway — even under the best of 
conditions? A few of the ladies in 
the parish (though you’re sure they 
never hear or understand a word), 
and, of course, Donovan. But who 
else? 

Screech away, little pink child! 
Screech until you — ^no. 

No, no. Ahhh! 

He walked through the sacristy, 
trying not to think of Donovan, or 
the big city churches with their fine 
nurseries, and sound-proof walls, 
and amplifiers that amplified . . . 

One had what one had: It was 
God’s will. 

And were things really so bad? 
Here there was the smell of forests, 
wasn’t there? And in what city 
parish could you see wild flowers 
growing on the hills like bright 
lava? Or feel the earth breathing? 

He opened the door and stepped 
outside. 

The fields were dark-silver and 



silent. Far above the fields, up near 
the clouds, a rocket launch moved 
swiftly, dragging its slow thunder 
behind it. 

Father Courtney blinked. 

Of course things were not so bad. 
Things would be just fine, he 
thought, and I would not be nerv- 
ous and annoyed at little children, 
if only — 

Abruptly he put his hands to- 
gether. “Father,” he whispered, “let 
him be well. Let that be Your \^11” 

Then, deciding not to wait to 
greet the people, he wiped his palms 
with a handkerc^ef and started for 
the rectory. 

The morning was very cold. A 
thin film of dew coated each pebble 
along the path, and made them all 
glisten like drops of mercxuy. Fa- 
ther Courtney looked at the pebbles 
and thought of other walks down 
this path, which led through a wood 
to Hidden River, and of himself 
laughing; of excellent wine and soft 
cushions and himself arguing, ar- 
guing; of a thousand sweet hours in 
die past. 

He walked and thought these 
things and did not hear the tele- 
phone until he had reached the rec- 
tory stairs. 

A chill passed over him, unac- 
coimtably. 

He went inside and pressed a 
yellow switch. The screen blurred, 
came into focus. The face of an 
old man appeared, filling the screen. 

“Hello, Father.” 

“George!” The priest smiled and 
waved his fist, menacingly. “George, 
why haven’t you contacted me?” 
He sputtered. “Aren’t you out of 



89 




that bed yet?” 

“Not yet, Father.” 

“Well, I expected it, I knew it. 
Now will you let me call a doctor?” 
“No — ” The old man in the 
screen shook his head. He was thin 
and pale. His hair was profuse, but 
very white, and there was some- 
tiling in his eyes. “I think I’d like 
you to come tJver, if you could.” 
“I shouldn’t,” the priest said, 
“after the way you’ve been treating 
all of us. But, if there’s still some 
of that Chianti left . . .” 

George Donovan nodded. “Could 
you come right away?” 

“Father Yoshida won’t be happy 
about it.” 

“Please. Right away.” 

Father Courtney felt his fingers 
draw into fists. “Why?” he asked, 
holding onto the conversational 
tone. “Is anything the matter?” 
“Not really,” Donovan said. His 
smile was brief. “It’s just that I’m 
dying.” 

“And I’m going to call Doctor 
Ferguson. Don’t give me any cirgu- 
ment, either. This nonsense has 
gone far — ” 

The old man’s face knotted. 
“No,” he said, loudly. “I forbid you 
to do that.” 

“But you’re ill, man. For all we 
know, you’re seriously ill. And if 
you think I’m going to stand 
around and watch you work your- 
self into the hospital just because 
you happen to dislike doctors, 
you’re crazy.” 

“Father, listen — please, I have 
my reasons. You don’t understand 
them, and I don’t blame you. But 
you’ve got to trust me. I’ll explain 
everything, if you’ll promise me you 

90 



won’t call anyone*^ 

Father Courtney breathed un- 
steadily; he studied his friend’s face. 
Then he said, “I’ll promise this 
much. I won’t contact a doctor 
until I’ve seen you.” 

“Good.” The old man seemed to 
relax. 

“I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.” 

“With your Little Black Bag?” 

“Certainly not. You’re going to 
be all right.” 

“Bring it. Father. Please. Just in 
case.” 

The screen blurred and danced 
and went white. 

Father Courtney hesitated at the 
blank telephone. 

Then he walked to a table and 
raised his fists and brought them 
down hard, once. 

You’re going to get well, he 
thought. It isn’t going to be too 
late. 

Because if you are dying, if you 
really are, and I could have pre- 
vented it . . . 

He went to the closet and drew 
on his overcoat. 

It was thick and heavy, but it 
did not warm him. As he returned 
to the sacristy he shivered and 
thought that he had never been so 
cold before in all his life. 



T he HELIGAR whirred and 
dropped quickly to the ground. 
Father Courtney removed the ig- 
nition key, pocketed it, and thrust 
his bulk out the narrow door, 
wheezing. 

A dull rumbling sifted down from 
the sky. The wake of fleets a mile 
away, ten miles, a hundred. 

CHARLES BEAUMONT 




It*s raining whales in our back^ 
yard, the priest thought, remember- 
ing how Donovan had described 
the sound once to a little girl. 

A freshet of autumn leaves burst 
against his leg, softly, and for a 
while he sto^ listening to the 
rockets’ dying rumble, watching the 
shapes of gold and red that scat- 
tered in the wind, like fire. 

Then he whispered, “Let it be 
Your will,” and pushed the picket 
gate. 

The front door of the house was 
open. 

He walked in, through the living- 
room, to the study. 

“George.” 

“In here,” a voice answered. 

He moved to the bedroom, and 
twisted the knob. 

George Donovan lay propped on 
a cloudbank of pillows, his thin 
face white as the linen. He was 
smiling. 

“I’m glad to see you, Father,” he 
said, quietly. 

The priest’s heart expanded and 
shrank and began to thump in his 
chest. 

“The Chianti’s down here in the 
night-table,” Donovan gestured. 
“Pour some: morning’s a good 
enough time for a dinner wine.” 

“Not now, George.” 

“Please. It will help.” 

Father Courtney pulled out the 
drawer and removed the half- 
empty bottle. He got a glass from 
the bookshelf, filled it. Dutifully, 
according to ritual, he asked, “For 
you?” 

“No,” Donovan said. “Thank 
you all the same.” He turned his 
head. “Sit over there. Father, where 

LAST RITES 



I can see you.” 

The priest frowned. He noticed 
that Donovan’s arms were perfect- 
ly flat against the blanket, that his 
body was rigid, outlined beneath 
the covering. No part of the old 
man moved except the head, and 
that slowly, unnaturally. 

“That’s better. But take off your 
coat — ^it’s terribly hot in here. 
You’ll catch pneumonia.” 

The room was full of cold winds 
from the open shutters. 

Father Courtney removed his 
coat. 

“You’ve been worried, haven’t 
you?” Donovan asked. 

The priest nodded. He tried to 
sense what was wrong, to smell the 
disease, if there was a disease, if 
there was anything. 

“I’m sorry about that.” The old 
man seemed to sigh. His eyes were 
misted, webbed with distance, light- 
ly. “But I wanted to be alone. 
Sometimes you have to be alone, to 
think, to get things straight. Isn’t 
that true?” 

“Sometimes, I suppose, but — ” 

“No. I know what you’re going 
to say, the questions you want to 
ask. But there’s not enough 
time . . .” 

Father Courtney arose from the 
chair, and walked quickly to the 
telephone extension. He jabbed a 
button. “I’m sorry, George,” he 
said, “but you’re going to have a 
doctor.” 

The screen did not flicker. 

He pressed the button again, 
firmly. 

“Sit down,” the tired voice whis- 
pered. “It doesn’t work. I pulled 
the wires ten minutes ago.” 



91 




“Then I’ll fly over to Milbum — ” 

“If you do, ril be dead when 
you get back. Believe that: I know 
what I’m talking about.” 

The priest clenched and un- 
clenched his stubby fingers, and sat 
down in the chair again. 

Donovan chuckled. “Drink up,” 
he said. “We can’t have good wine 
going to waste, can we?” 

The priest put the glass to his 
lips. He tried to think clearly. If he 
rushed out to Milburn and got Doc- 
tor Ferguson, perhaps there’d be a 
chance. Or — He took a deep swal- 
low. 

No. That wouldn’t do. It might 
take hours. 

Donovan was talking now; the 
words lost — a hum of locusts in the 
room, a far-off murmuring; then, 
like a radio turned up: “Father, 
how long have we been friends, you 
and I?” 

“Why . . . twenty years,” the 
priest answered. “Or more.” 

“Would you say you know me 
very well by now?” 

“I believe so.” 

“Then tell me first, right now, 
would you say that I’ve been a good 
man?” 

Father Courtney smiled. 
“There’ve been worse,” he said, 
and thought of what this man had 
accomplished in Mount Vernon, 
quietly, in his own quiet way, over 
the years. The building of a decent 
school for the children — ^Donovan 
had shamed the people into it. The 
new hospital — Donovan’s doing, his 
patient campaigning. Entertain- 
ment halls for the young; a city 
fund for the poor; better teachers, 

92 



better doctors — all, all because of 
the old man with the soft voice, 
George Donovan. 

“Do you mean it?” 

“Don’t be foolish. And don’t be 
treacly, either. Of course I mean 
it” 

In the room, now, a strange odor 
fumed up, suddenly. 

The old man said, “I’m glad.” 
Still he did not move. “But, I’m 
sorry I asked. It was unfair.” 

“I don’t have the slightest idea 
what you’re talking about.” 

“Neither do I, Father, complete- 
ly. I thought I did, once, but I was 
wrong.” 

The priest slapped his knees, 
angrily. “Why won’t you let me get 
a doctor? We’ll have plenty of time 
to talk afterwards.” 

Donovan’s eyes narrowed, and 
curved into what resembled a smile. 
“You’re my doctor,” he said. “The 
only one who can help me now.” 
“In what way?” 

“By making a decision.” The 
voice was reedy : it seemed to waver 
and change pitch. 

“What sort of a decision?” 
Donovan’s head jerked up. He 
closed his eyes and remained this 
way for a full minute, while the 
acrid smell bellied and grew strong- 
er and whorled about the room in 
invisible currents. 

“ ‘. . . the gentleman lay grave- 
ward with his furies . . .’ Do you re- 
member that. Father?” 

“Yes,” the priest said. “Thomas, 
isn’t it?” 

“Thomas. He’s been here with 
me, you know, really; and I’ve been 
asking him things. On the theory 
that poets aren’t entirely human. 

CHARLES BEAUMONT 




But he just grins. ‘You’re dying of 
strangers,’ he says; and grins. Bless 
him.” The old man lowered his 
head. “He disappointed me.” 

Father Courtney reached for a 
cigarette, crumpled the empty pack, 
laced and unlaced his fingers. He 
waited, remembering the times he 
had come to this house, all the fine 
evenings. Ending now? 

Yes. Whatever else he would 
learn, he knew that, suddenly: they 
were ending. 

“What sort of a decision, 
George?” 

“A theological sort.” 

Father Courtney snorted and 
walked to a window. Outside, the 
sun was hidden behind a curtain of 
gray. Birds sat black and still on the 
telephone lines, like notes of music; 
and there was rain. 

“Is there something you think 
you haven’t told me?” he asked. 

“Yes.” 

“About yourself?” 

“Yes.” 

“I don’t think so, CJeorge.” Fa- 
ther Courtney turned. “I’ve known 
about it for a long time.” 

The old man tried to speak. 

“I’ve known very well. And now 
I think I understand why you’ve 
refused to see anyone.” 

“No,” Donovan said. “You don’t. 
Father, listen to me: it isn’t what 
you think.” 

“Nonsense.” The priest reverted 
to his usual gruff ness. “We’ve been 
friends for too many years for this 
kind of thing. It’s exactly what I 
think. You’re an intelligent, well- 
read, mule-stubbom old man who’s 
worried he won’t get to Heaven be- 
cause sometimes he has doubts.” 



“That isn’t—” 

“Well, rubbish! Do you think I 
don’t ask questions, myself, once 
in a while? Just l^cause Fm a 
priest, do you think I go blindly on, 
never wondering, not even for a 
minute?” 

The old man’s eyes moved swift- 
ly, up and down. 

“Every intelligent person doubts, 
George, once in a while. And we all 
feel terrible about it, and we’re 
terribly sorry. But I assure you, if 
this were enough to damn us. 
Heaven would be a wilderness.” Fa- 
ther Courtney reached again for a 
cigarette. “So you’ve shut yourself 
up like a hermit and worried and 
stewed and endangered your life, 
and all for nothing.” He coughed. 
“Well, that’s it, isn’t it?” 

“I wish it were,” Donovan said, 
sadly. His eyes kept dancing. There 
was a long pause; then he said, 
“Let me pose you a theoretical 
problem. Father. Something I’ve 
been thinking about lately.” 

Father Courtney recalled the sen- 
tence, and how many times it had 
begun the evenings of talk — won- 
derful talk! These evenings, he real- 
ized, were part of his life now. An 
important part. For there was no 
one else, no one of Donovan’s in- 
telligence, with whom you could 
argue any subject under the sun — 
from Frescobaldi to baseball, from 
Colonization on Mars to the early 
French symbolists, to agrarian re- 
forms, to wines, to theology . . . 

The old man shifted in the bed. 
As he did, the acrid odor dimin- 
ished 2ind swelled and pulsed. “You 
once told me,” he said, “that you 

93 



LAST RITES 




read imaginative fiction, didn’t 
you?” 

“I suppose so.” 

“And that there were certain 
concepts you could swallow — such 
as parallel worlds, mutated humans, 
and the like — , but that other con- 
cepts you couldn’t swallow at all. 
Artificial life, I befieve you men- 
tioned, and time travel, and a few 
others.” 

The priest nodded. 

“Well, let’s take one of these 
themes for our problem. Will you 
do that? Let’s t^e the first idea.” 

“All right. Then the doctor.” 

“We have this man. Father,” 
Donovan said, gazing at the ceiling. 
“He looks perfectly ordinary, you 
see, and it would occur to no one 
to doubt this ; but he is not ordinary. 
Strictly speaking, he isn’t even a 
man. For, though he lives, he isn’t 
alive. You follow? He is a thing of 
wires and coils and magic, a crea- 
tion of other men. He is a ma- 
chine . . .” 

“George!” The priest shook his 
head. “We’ve gone through this 
before: it’s foolish to waste time. 
I came here to help you, not to en- 
gage in a discussion of science fic- 
tion themes!” 

“But that’s how you can help 
me,” Donovan said. 

“Very well,” the priest sighed. 
“But you know my views on this. 
Even if there were a logical purpose 
to which such a creature might be 
put — and I can’t think of any — I 
still say they will never create a 
machine that is capable of abstract 
thought. Human intelligence is a 
spiritual thing — and spiritual things 
can’t be duplicated by men.” 

94 



“You really believe that?” 

“Of course I do. Extrapolation of 
known scientific advances is per- 
fectly all right; but this is something 
else entirely.” 

“Is it?” the old man said. “What 
about Pasteur’s discoveiTi? Or the 
X-Ray? Did Roentgen correlate a 
lot of embryonic data. Father, or 
did he come upon something brand 
new? What do you think even the 
scientists themselves would have 
said to the idea of a machine that 
would see through human tissue? 
They would have said. It’s fantas- 
tic. And it was, too, and is. Never- 
theless, it exists.” 

“It’s not the same thing.” 

“No ... I suppose that’s true. 
However, I’m not trying to con- 
vince you of my thesis. I ask merely 
that you accept it for the sake of 
the problem. Will you?” 

“Go ahead, George.” 

“We have this man, then. He’s 
artificial, but he’s perfect: great 
pains have been taken to see to 
this. Perfect, no detail spared, how- 
ever small. He looks human, and he 
acts human, and for all the world 
knows, he is human. In fact, some- 
times even he, our man, gets con- 
fused. When he feels a pain in his 
heart, for instance, its diflScult for 
him to remember that he has no 
heart. When he sleeps and awakes 
refreshed, he must remind himself 
that this is all controlled by an auto- 
matic switch somewhere inside his 
brain, and that he doesn’t actually 
feel refreshed. He must think. I’m 
not real. I’m not real. I’m not real! 

“But this becomes impossible, 
after a while. Because he doesn’t 
believe it He begins to ask, Why? 

CHARLES BEAUMONT 




Why am I not real? Where is the 
difference, when you come right 
down to it? Humans eat and sleep 
— as I do. They talk — as I do. They 
move and work and laugh — ^as I do. 
What they think, I think, and what 
they feel, I feel. Don’t I? 

“He wonders, this mechanical 
man does, Father, what would hap- 
pen if all the people on earth were 
suddenly to discover they were me- 
chanical also. Would they feel any 
the less human? Is it likely that they 
would rush off to woo typewriters 
and adding machines? Or would 
they think, perhaps, of revising their 
definition of the word, ‘Life’? 

“Well, our man thinks about it, 
and thinks about it, but he never 
reaches a conclusion. He doesn’t be- 
lieve he’s nothing more than an 
advanced calculator, but he doesn’t 
really believe he’s human, either: 
not completely. 

“All he knows is that the smell of 
wet grass is a fine smell to him, and 
that the sound of the wind blowing 
through trees is very sad and very 
beautiful, and that he loves the 
whole earth with an impossible pas- 
sion . . .” 

Father Courtney shifted uncom- 
fortably in his chair. If only the 
telephone worked, he thought. Or if 
he could be sure it was safe to leave. 

. . other men made the crea- 
ture, as I’ve said; but many more 
like him were made. However, of 
them all, let’s say only he was suc- 
cessful.” 

“Why?” the priest asked, irri- 
tably. “Why would this be done in 
the first place?” 

Donovan smiled. “Why did we 
send the first ship to the moon? Or 

LAST RITES 



bother to split the atom? For no 
very good reason. Father. Except 
the reason behind all of science: 
Curiosity. My theoretical scientists 
were curious to see if it could be 
accomplished, that’s all.” 

The priest shrugged. 

“But perhaps I’d better give our 
man a lustory. That would make it 
a bit more logical. All right, he was 
bom a hundred years ago, roughly. 
A privately owned industrial 
monopoly was his mother, and a 
dozen or so assorted technicians his 
father. He sprang from his elec- 
tronic womb fully formed. But, as 
the result of an accident — lack of 
knowledge, what have you — he 
came out rather different from his 
unsuccessful brothers. A mutant! A 
mutated robot, Father — now there’s 
an idea that ought to appeal to you! 
Anyway, he knew who, or what, he 
was. He remembered. And so — to 
make it brief — ^when the war inter- 
rupted the experiment and threw 
things into a general uproar, our 
man decided to escape. He wanted 
his individuality. He wanted to get 
out of the zoo. 

“It wasn’t particularly easy, but 
he did this. Once free, of course, it 
was impossible to find him. For one 
thing, he had been constructed 
along almost painfully ordinary 
lines. And for another, they couldn’t 
very well release the information 
that a mechanical man built by 
their laboratories was wandering 
the streets. It would cause a panic. 
And there was enough panic, what 
with the nerve gas and the bombs.” 

“So they never found him, I 
gather.” 

“No,” Donovan said, wistfully. 

95 




‘‘They never found him. And they 
kept their secret well : it died when 
they died.” 

“And what happened to the 
creature?” 

“Very little, to tell the truth. 
They’d given him a decent intelli- 
gence, you see — ^far more decent, 
and complex, than they knew — so 
he didn’t have much trouble finding 
small jobs. A rather old-looking 
man, fairly strong — ^he made out. 
Needless to say, he couldn’t stay in 
the same town for more than twen- 
ty years or so, because of his in- 
ability to age, but this was all right. 
Everyone makes friends and loses 
them. He got used to it.” 

Father Courtney sat very still 
now. The birds had flown away 
from the telephone lines, and were 
at the window, beating their wings, 
and crying harshly. 

“But all this time, he’s been 
thinking. Father. Thinking and 
reading. He makes quite a study of 
philosophy, and for a time he 
favors a somewhat peculiar com- 
bination of Russell and Schopen- 
hauer — ^unbitter bitterness, you 
might say. Then this phase passes, 
and he begins to search through the 
vast theological and metaphysical 
literature. For what? He isn’t sure. 
However, he is sure of one thing, 
now: He is, indubitably, human. 
Without breath, without heart, 
without blood or bone, artificially 
created, he thinks this and believes 
it, with a fair amount of firmness, 
too. Isn’t that remarkable!” 

“It is indeed,” the priest said, his 
throat oddly tight and dry. “Go 
on.” 

“Well,” Donovan chuckled, “I’ve 



caught your interest, have I? All 
right, then. Let us imagine that one 
hundred years Ifkve passed. The 
creature has been able to make 
minor repairs on himself, but — ^at 
last — ^he is dying. Like an ancient 
motor, he’s gone on nmning year 
after year, until he’s all paste and 
hairpins, and now, like the motor, 
he’s falling apart. And nothing and 
no one can save him.” 

The acrid aroma burned and 
fumed. 

“Here’s the real paradox, though. 
Our man has become religious. Fa- 
ther! He doesn’t have a living cell 
within him, yet he’s concerned 
about his soul!” 

Donovan’s eyes quieted, as the 
rest of him did. “The problem,” he 
said, “is this: Having lived credit- 
ably for over a century as a member 
of iht human species, can this crea- 
ture of ours hope for Heaven? Or 
will he ‘die’ and become only a 
heap of metal cogs?” 

Father Courtney leapt from the 
chair, and moved to the bed. 
“George, in Heaven’s name, let me 
call Doctor Ferguson!” 

“Answer the question first. Or 
haven’t you decided?” 

“There’s nothing to decide,” the 
priest said, with impatience. “It’s a 
preposterous idea. No machine can 
have a soul.” 

Donovan made the sighing 
sound, through closed lips. He said, 
“You don’t think it’s conceivable, 
then, that God could have made an 
exception here?” 

“What do you mean?” 

“That He could have taken pity 
on this theoretical man of ours, and 
breathed a soul into him after all? 



96 



CHARLES BEAUMONT 




Is that so impossible?^’ 

Father Courtney shrugged. “It’s 
a poor word, impossible,” he said. 
“But it’s a poor problem, too. Why 
not ask me whether pigs ought to be 
allowed to fly?” 

“Then you admit it’s conceiv- 
able?” 

“I admit nothing of the kind. It 
simply isn’t the sort of question any 
man can answer.” 

“Not even a priest?” 

“Especially not a priest. You 
know as much about Catholicism 
as I do, George ; you ought to know 
how absurd the proposition is.” 
“Yes,” Donovan said. His eyes 
were closed. 

Father Courtney remembered the 
time they had argued furiously on 
what would happen if you went 
back in time and killed your own 
grandfather. This was like that ar- 
gument. Exactly like it — exactly. It 
was no stranger than a dozen other 
discussions (What if Mozart had 
b^en a writer instead of a com- 
poser? If a person died and re- 
mained dead for an hour and were 
then revived, would he be haunted 
by his own ghost?) Plus, perhaps, 
the fact that Donovan might be in 
a fever. Perhaps and might and why 
do I sit here while his life may be 
draining away . . . 

The old man made a sharp noise. 
“But you can tell me this much,” 
he said. “If our theoretical man 
were dying, and you knew that he 
was dying, would you give him Ex- 
treme Unction?” 

“George, you’re delirious.” 

“No, I’m not: please. Father! 
Would you give this creature the 

LAST RITES 



Last Rites? If, say, you knew him? 
If you’d known him for years, as 
a friend, as a member of the 
parish?” 

The priest shook his head. “It 
would be sacriligious.” 

“But why? You said yoiurself 
that he might have a soul, that God 
might have granted him this. Didn’t 
you say that?” 

“Father, remember, he’s a friend 
of yours. You know him well. You 
and he, this creature, have worked 
together, side by side, for years. 
You’ve taken a thousand walks to- 
gether, shared the same interests, 
the same love of art and knowledge. 
For the sake of the thesis. Father. 
Do you understand?” 

“No,” the priest said, feeling a 
chill freeze into him. “No, I don’t.” 
“Just answer this, then. If your 
friend were suddenly to reveal him- 
self to you as a machine, and he was 
dying, and wanted very much to go 
to Heaven — ^what would you do?” 
The priest picked up the wine 
glass and emptied it. He noticed 
Slat his hand W2is trembling. “Why 
— he began, and stopped, and 
looked at the silent old man in the 
bed, studying the face, searching 
for madness, for death. 

^^What would you do?^^ 

An unsummoned image flashed 
through his mind. Donovan, kneel- 
ing at the altar for Communion, 
Sunday after Sunday; Donovan, 
with his mouth firmly shut, while 
the others’ yawned ; Donovan, wait- 
ing to the last moment, then snatch- 
ing the Host, quickly, dartingly, 
like a lizard gobbling a fly. 

Had he ever seen Donovan eat? 

97 




Had he seen him take even one 
glass of wine, ever? 

Father Courtney shuddered 
slightly, brushing away the images. 
He felt unwell. He wished the birds 
would go elsewhere. 

Welly answer hiniy he thought. 
Give him an answer. Then get in 
the helicar and fly to Milburn and 
pray ifs not too late . . . 

“I think,” the priest said, “that 
in such a case, I would administer 
Extreme Unction.” 

“Just as a precautionary meas- 
ure?” 

“It’s all very ridiculous, but— I 
think that’s what I’d do. Does that 
answer the question?” 

“It does. Father. It does.” Dono- 
van’s voice came from nowhere. 
“There is one last point, then I’m 
finished with my little thesis.” 
“Yes?” 

“Let us say the man dies and you 
give him Extreme Unction; he does 
or does not go to Heaven, provided 
there is a Heaven. What happens to 
the body? Do you tell the townspeo- 
ple they have been living with a 
mechanical monster all these 
years?” 

“What do you think, George?” 

“I think it would be unwise. They 
remember our theoretical man as a 
friend, you see. The shock would be 
terrible. Also, they would never 
believe he was the only one of his 
kind: they’d begin to suspect their 
neighbors of having clockwork in- 
teriors. And some of them might be 
tempted to investigate and see for 
sure. And, too, the news would be 
bound to spread, all over the world. 
I think it would be a bad thing to 
let anyone know, Father.” 



“How would I be able to sup- 
press it?” the priest heard himself 
ask, seriously. 

“By conducting a private autop- 
sy, so to speak. Then, afterward, 
you could take the parts to a junk- 
yard and scatter them.” 

Donovan’s voice dropped to a 
whisper. Again the locust hum. 

“. . . and if our monster had left 
a note to the effect he had moved 
to some unspecified place, you . . .” 

The acrid smell billowed, all at 
once, like a steam, a hiss of blinding 
vapor. 

“George.” 

Donovan lay imstirring on the 
cloud of linen, his face composed, 
expressionless. 

“George!” 

The priest reached his hand un- 
der the blanket and touched the 
heart-area of Donovan’s chest. He 
tried to pull the eyelids up: they 
would not move. 

He blinked away the burning 
wetness. “Forgive me!” he said, and 
paused, and took from his pocket a 
small white jar and a white stole. 

He spoke softly, under his breath, 
in Latin. While he spoke, he 
touched the old man’s feet and 
head with glistening fingertips. 

Then, when many minutes had 
passed, he raised his head. 

Rain sounded in the room, and 
swift winds, and far-off rockets. 

Father Courtney grasped the 
edge of the blanket. 

He made the Sign of the Cross, 
breathed, and pulled downward, 
slowly. 

After a long while he opened his 
eyes. • • • 



98 



CHARLES BEAUMONT 




An executive job was no longer important, not with the Union 



holding the stock. But a smart vice-president knows more 
than machines and production — he knows people 



Meeting of the Board 

BY ALAN E. NOURSE 



I T WAS going to be a bad day. 

As he pushed his way nervously 
through the crowds toward the Exit 
Strip, Walter Towne turned the 
dismal prospect over and over in his 
mind. The potential gloominess of 
this particular day had descended 
upon him the instant the morning 
buzzer had gone off, making it even 
easier than usual to just roll over 
and forget about it ^1 — until the 
water-douse came twenty minutes 
later to drag him, drenched and 
gurgling, back to the cruel cold 
world. He had wolfed down his 
morning Koffee-Kup with one eye 
on the clock and one eye on his 
growing sense of impenffing crisis. 
And now, to make things just a 



trifle worse, he was going to be late 
again. 

He struggled doggedly across the 
rumbling Exit Strip toward the 
Plant entrance. After all, he told 
himself, why should he be so upset? 
He was Vice President-In-Charge- 
Of-Production of the Robling Ti- 
tanium Corporation. What could 
they do to him, really? He had re- 
hearsed his part many times — 
squaring his tlun shoulders, looking 
the Union Boss square in the eye 
and saying, “Now, see here, Torkle- 
son — But he knew, when the 
showdown came, that he wouldn’t 
say any such thing. And this was the 
morning that the showdown would 
come. 



99 




Oh, not because of the lateness. 
Of course Bailey, the Shop Steward, 
would take his usual delight in 
bringing that up. But this seemed 
hardly worthy of concern this morn- 
ing. The reports waiting on his 
desk were what worried him. The 
sales reports. The promotion-draw 
reports. The royalty reports. The 
anticipated dividend reports. Wal- 
ter shook his head wearily. The 
Shop Steward was a goad, annoy- 
ing, perhaps even infuriating, but 
tolerable. Torkleson was a different 
matter — 

He pulled his worn overcoat 
down over frayed shirt-sleeves, and 
tried vainly to straighten the cellu- 
loid collar that kept scooting his tie 
up under his ear. Once off the mov- 
ing Strip, he started up the Robling 
corridor toward the plant gate. Per- 
haps he would be fortunate. Maybe 
the reports would be late. Maybe 
his secretary’s two neurones would 
fail to synapse this morning, and 
she’d lose them altogether. And, as 
long as he was dreaming, maybe 
Bailey would break his neck on the 
way to work this morning. He 
walked quickly past the Workers’ 
Lounge, glancing in at the groups 
of men, arguing politics and check- 
ing the stock market reports before 
they changed from their neat grey 
business suits to their welding dun- 
garees for the day. Running up the 
stairs to the Administrative Wing, 
he paused outside the door to punch 
the time clock. 8:04. Damn. If only 
Bailey could be sick — 

Bailey was not sick. The Ad- 
ministrative Offices were humming 
with frantic activity as Walter 
glanced down the rows of cubby- 

100 



hole offices. And in the middle of it 
all sat Bailey, in his black-and-yel- 
low checkered tattersall, smoking a 
large cigar. His feet were planted 
on his desk top, but he hadn’t 
started on his morning western 
novel yet. He was busy glaring, first 
at the clock, then at Walter. 

“Late again, I see,” the Shop 
Steward growled. 

Walter gulped. “Yes, sir. Just 
four minutes, this time, sir. You 
know those crowded Strips—” 

“So it’s just four minutes now, 
eh?” Bailey’s feet came down with 
a crash. “After last month’s fine 
production record, you think four 
minutes doesn’t matter, eh? Think 
just because you’re a Vice President 
it’s all right to mosey in here when- 
ever you feel like it.” He glowered. 
“Well, this is three times tins month 
you’ve been late, Towne. That’s a 
demerit for each time — and you 
know what that means.” 

“You wouldn’t count four min- 
utes as a whole demerit!” 

Bailey grinned. “Wouldn’t I, 
now! You just add up your pay 
envelope on Friday. Ten cents an 
hour off for each demerit — 
Walter sighed and shuffled back 
to his desk. Oh, well. It could have 
been worse. They might have fired 
him like poor Cartwright last 
month. He’d just have to listen to 
that morning buzzer . . . 

The reports were on his desk. He 
picked them up warily. Maybe they 
wouldn’t be so bad. He’d had more 
freedom this last month than before 
— ^maybe there’d been a policy 
change. Maybe Torkleson was gain- 
ing confidence in him. Maybe — 
The reports were worse than he 

ALAN E. NOURSE 




had ever dreamed. 

^‘Towner 

Walter jumped a foot. Bailey was 
putting down the vidiphone receiv- 
er. His grin spread unpleasantly 
from ear to ear. “What have you 
been doing lately? Sabotaging the 
production line?” 

“What’s the trouble now?” 
Bailey jerked a thumb significant- 
ly at the ceiling. “The Boss wants 
to see you. And you’d better have 
the right answers, too. The Boss 
seems to have a lot of questions.” 
Walter rose slowly from his seat. 
This was it, then. Torkleson had al- 
ready seen the reports. He started 
for the door, his knees shaking. 

It hadn’t always been like this, 
he reflected miserably. Time was 
when things had been very dif- 
ferent. It had meant something to 
be Vice President of a huge indus- 
trial firm like Robling Titanium. A 
man could have had a fine house of 
his own, and a ’copter-car, and be- 
long to the Country Club — maybe 
even have a cottage on a lake some- 
where — 

Walter could almost remember 
those days with Robling, before the 
Switchover. Before that black day 
when the exchange of ten little 
shares of stock had thrown the 
Robling Titanium Corporation into 
the hands of strange and imnatural 
owners. 



T he door was of heavy 
stained oak, with bold letters 
edged in gold: 

TITANIUM WORKERS OF 
AMERICA 




Illustrated by Ed Emsh 
101 



MEETING OF THE BOARD 




Amalgamated Locals 
Daniel P. Torkleson, Secretary 

The secretary flipped down the 
desk switch and eyed Walter with 
pity. “Mr. Torkleson will see you.” 
Walter pushed through the door 
into the long, handsome office. For 
an instant he felt a pang of nostal- 
gia — the floor-to-ceiling windows 
looking out across the long buildings 
of the Robling plant, the pine 
panelling, the broad expanse of 
desk — 

“Well? Don’t just stand there. 
Shut the door and come over here.” 
The man behind the desk hoisted 
his three hundred well-dressed 
poimds and glared at Walter from 
under flagrant eyebrows. Torkle- 
son’s whole body quivered as he 
slammed a sheaf of papers down on 
the desk. “Just what do you think 
you’re doing with this company, 
Towne?” 

Walter swallowed. “I’m produc- 
tion manager of the corporation.” 
“And just what does the produc- 
tion manager do all day?” 

Walter reddened. “He organizes 
the work of the plant, establishes 
production lines, works with Pro- 
motion and Sales, integrates Re- 
search and Development, operates 
the planning machines — ” 

“And you think you do a pretty 
good job of it, eh? Even asked for 
a raise last year!” Torkleson’s voice 
was dangerous. 

Walter spread his hands. “I do 
my best. I’ve been doing it for thirty 
years. I should know what I’m 
doing.” 

‘^Then how do you explain these 
reports?** Torkleson threw the heap 

102 



of papers into Walter’s arms, and 
paced up and down behind the 
desk. “LooA: at them! Sales at rock 
bottom. Receipts impossible. Big 
orders cancelled. The worst reports 
jp seven years — and you say you 
know your job!” 

“I’ve been doing everything I 
could,” Walter snapped. “Of course 
the reports are bad — they couldn’t 
help but be. We haven’t met a 
production schedule in over two 
years. No plant can keep up pro- 
duction the way the men are work- 
ing—” 

Torkleson’s face darkened. He 
leaned forward slowly. “So it’s the 
men now, is it? Go ahead. Tell me 
what’s wrong with the men.” 

“Nothing’s wrong with the men 
— ^if they’d only work. But they 
come in when they please, and 
leave when they please, and spend 
half their time dianging and the 
other half on Koffee-Kup — no 
company could survive. But that’s 
only half of it — ” Walter picked up 
the reports, searched through them 
frantically. “This International Jet 
Transport account — ^they dropped 
US because we haven’t had a new 
engine in six years. Why? Because 
Research and Development hasn’t 
had any money for six years. What 
can two starved engineers and a 
second rate chemist drag out of an 
attic laboratory to compete on the 
titanium market?” Walter took a 
deep breath. “I’ve warned you time 
and again. Robling had built up 
accounts over the years with fine 
products and new models. But since 
the Switchover seven years ago, you 
and your Board have forced me to 
play the cheap products for the 

ALAN E. NOURSE 




qmck profit in order to give your 
men their dividends. Now the bot- 
tom’s dropped out. We couldn’t 
turn a quick profit on the big, im- 
portant accounts, so we had to can- 
cel them. If you had let me manage 
the company the way it should have 
been run — 

Torkleson had been slowly turn- 
ing purple. Now he slammed his 
fist down on the desk. “We should 
just turn the company back to 
Management again, eh? Just let 
you have a free hand to rob us blind 
again. Well, it won’t work, Towne. 
Not while I’m secretary of this 
Union. We fought long and hard 
for control of this corporation — ^just 
the way all the other Unions did. I 
know. I was through it all.” He 
sat back smugly, his cheeks quiver- 
ing with emotion. “You might say 
that I was a national leader in the 
movement. But I did it only for the 
men. The men want their dividends. 
They own the stock, stock is sup-: 
posed to pay dividends — 

“But they’re cutting their own 
throats,” Walter wailed. “You can’t 
build a company and make it grow 
the way I’ve been forced to run 
it—” 

“Details!” Torkleson snorted. “I 
don’t care how the dividends come 
in. That’s your job. My job is to re- 
port a dividend every six months to 
the men who own the stock — the 
men working on the production 
lines.” 

Walter nodded bitterly. “And 
every year the dividend has to be 
higher than the last, or you and 
your fat friends are likely to be 
thrown out of your jobs — aright? No 
more steaks every night. No more 

MEETING OF THE BOARD 



private gold-plated Buicks for you 
boys. No more twenty-room man- 
sions in Westchester. No more big 
game hunting in the Rockies. No, 
you don’t have to know anything 
but how to whip a Board Mee^g 
into a frenzy so they’ll vote you into 
office again each year — ** 

Torkleson’s eyes glittered. His 
voice was very soft “I’ve always 
liked you, Walter. So I’m goin^ to 
pretend I didn’t hear you just 
then.” He paused for a long mo- 
ment. “But here on my desk is a 
small bit of white paper. Unless 
you have my signature on that 
paper on the first of next month, 
you are out of a job, on grounds of 
incompetence. And I will personally 
see that you go on every Whitelist in 
the country.” 

Walter felt the fight go out of 
him like a dying wind. He knew 
what the Whitelist meant. No job, 
anywhere, ever, in management. No 
chance, ever, to join a Union. No 
more house, no more weekly pay 
envelope. He spread his hands 
weakly. “What do you want?” he 
asked. 

“I want a production plan on 
my desk within twenty-four hours. 
A plan that will guarantee me a 5% 
increase in dividend in the next six 
months. And you’d better move 
fast, because I’m not fooling.” 

Back in his cubbyhole down- 
stairs, Walter stared hopelessly at 
the reports. He had known it would 
come to this sooner or later. They 
all knew it — Hendricks of Promo- 
tion, Pendleton of Sales, the whole 
managerial staff. 

It was wrong, all the way down 

103 




the line. Walter had fought it tooth 
and nail since the day Torkleson 
had installed the moose-heads in 
Walter’s old office, and moved him 
down to the cubbyhole, imder 
Bailey’s watchful eye. He had ar- 
gued, and battled, and pleaded — 
and lost. He had watched the com- 
pany deteriorate day by day — ^and 
now they blamed him, and threat- 
ened his job, and he was helpless 
to do anything about it — 

He stared at the machines, click- 
ing busily against the wall, and an 
idea began to form. Helpless? 

Not quite. Not if the others 
could see it, go along with it. It 
was a repugnant idea. But there was 
one thing they could do that even 
Torkleson and his fat-jowled crew 
would imderstand. 

They could go on strike. 



RIDICULOUS,” the law- 
-lyer spluttered, staring at the 
circle of men in ffie room. “How 
can I give you an opinion on the le- 
gality of the thing? There isn’t any 
legal precedent that I know of.” He 
mopped his bald head with a large 
white handkerchief. “There just 
hasn’t been a case of a company’s 
management striking against its 
own labor. It — it isn’t done. Oh, 
there have been lockouts, but this 
isn’t the same thing at all — ” 
Walter nodded. “Well, we 
couldn’t very well lock the men 
out — they own the plant. We were 
thinking more of a lock-in sort of 
thing.” He turned to Paul Hen- 
dricks and the others. “We know 
how the machines operate. They 
don’t. We also know that the data 

104 



we keep in the machines is essential 
to running the business — the ma- 
chines figure production quotas, or- 
ganize blueprints, prepare distribu- 
tion lists, test promotion schemes. It 
would take an office full of man- 
agerial experts to handle even a 
single phase of the work without 
the machines — ” 

The man at the window hissed, 
and Pendleton quickly snapped out 
the lights. They sat in darkness, 
hwlly daring to breath. Then: 
“Okay. Just the man next door 
coming home.” 

Pendleton sighed. “You’re sure 
you didn’t let them suspect any- 
thing, Walter? They wouldn’t be 
wat^ng the hoiise — 

“I don’t think so. And you all 
came alone,, at different times.” He 
nodded to the window guard, and 
turned back to the little lawyer. “So 
we can’t be sure of the legal end — 
you’d have to be on your toes.” 

“I still don’t see how we could 
work it,” Hendricks objected. His 
heavy face was wrinkled with wor- 
ry. “Torkleson is no fool — and he 
has a lot of power in the National 
Association of Union Stockholders. 
All he’d need to do is ask for man- 
agers, and a dozen companies would 
throw them to him on loan. They’d 
be able to figure out the machine 
system and t^e over without losing 
a day.” 

“Not qxiite.” Walter was grin- 
ning. “That’s why I spoke of a lock- 
in. Before we leave, we throw the 
machines into feedback — every one 
of them. Lock them into reverberat- 
ing circuits with a code sequence 
key. Then all they’ll do is buzz and 
sputter imtil the feedback is broken 

ALAN E. NOURSE 




with the key. And the key is our 
secret. It’ll tie the Robling office 
into granny knots — and scabs won’t 
be able to get any more data out of 
the machines than Torkleson could. 
With a lawyer to handle injunc- 
tions, we’ve got them strapped.” 
“For what?” asked the lawyer. 
Walter turned on him sharply. 
“For new contracts. Contracts to 
let us manage the company the way 
it should be managed. If they won’t 
do it, they won’t get another Ti- 
tanium product off their production 
lines for the rest of the year, and 
their dividends will really t^ a 
nosedive.” 

“That means you’ll have to beat 
Torkleson,” said Bates. “He’ll never 
go along.” 

“Then he’ll be left behind.” 
Hendricks stood up, brushing off 
his dungarees. “I’m with you, Wal- 
ter. I’ve taken all of Torkleson that 
I want to. And I’m sick of the junk 
we’ve been trying to sell people.” 
The others nodded. Walter 
rubbed his hands together. “All 
right. Tomorrow we work as usual, 
until the noon whistle. When we go 
off for lunch, we throw the ma- 
chines into lock-step. Then we just 
don’t come back. But the big thing 
is to keep it quiet until the noon 
whistle.” He turned to the lawyer. 
“Are you with us, Jeff?” 

Jeff Bates shook his head sadly. 
“I’m with you. I don’t know why — 
you haven’t got a leg to stand on. 
But if you, want to committ suicide, 
that’s all right with me.” He picked 
up his briefcase, and started for the 
door. “I’ll have your contract de- 
mands by tomorrow,” he grinned. 
“See you at the lynching.” 

MEETING OF THE BOARD 



They got down to the details of 
planning. 

T he news hit the afternoon 
telecasts the following day. 
Headlines screamed : MANAGE- 
MENT SABOTAGES ROBLING 
MACHINES, OFFICE STRIK- 
ERS THREATEN LABOR 
ECONOMY, ROBLING LOCK- 
IN CREATES PANDEMONI- 
UM .. . 

There was a long, indignant 
statement from Daniel P. Torkle- 
son, condemning Towne and his 
followers for “flagrant violation of 
management contracts, and illegal 
fouling of managerial processes.” 
Ben Starkey, President of the Board 
of American Steel expressed “shock 
and regret” ; the Amalgamated But- 
ton-Hole Makers held a mass meet- 
ing in protest, demanding that “the 
instigators of this unprecedented 
crime be permanently barred from 
positions in American Industry.” 
In Washington, the nation’s 
economists were more cautious in 
their views. Yes, it was an unprece- 
dented action. Yes, there would un- 
doubtedly be repercussions — many 
industries were having managerial 
troubles; but as for long term 
effects, it was difficult to say just at 
present — 

And the workmen on the Robling 
production lines blinked at each 
other, and at their machines, and 
wondered vaguely what it was all 
about — 

Yet in all the upheaval, there 
was very little expression of sur- 
prise. Step by step, through the 
years, economists had been watch- 

105 




ing the growing movement toward 
Union control of Industry with 
wary eyes. Even as far back as the 
’40’s and ’50’s Uniqiis, finding 
themselves oppressed with the ad- 
ministration of growing sums of 
money — pension funds, welfare 
funds, medical insurance funds, ac- 
cruing Union dues — ^had begun in- 
vesting in corporate stock. It was 
no news to them that money could 
make money. And what stock more 
logical to buy than stock in their 
own companies? 

At first it had been a quiet move- 
ment. One by one the smaller firms 
had tottered, bled drier and drier 
by increasing production costs, in- 
creasing labor demands, and an 
ever-dwindling margin of profit. 
One by one they had seen their 
stocks tottering as they faced bank- 
ruptcy — only to be gobbled up by 
the one ready buyer with plenty of 
funds to buy with. At first changes 
had been small and insignificant: 
Boards of Directors shifted, the men 
were paid higher wages and worked 
shorter hours, there were tighter 
management policies, and a little 
less money spent on extras like Re- 
search and Development — 

At first. Until that fateful night 
when Daniel P. Torkleson of TWA 
and Jake Squill of Amalgamated 
Button-Hole Makers spent a long 
evening with beer and cigars in a 
hotel room, and floated the loan 
that threw Steel to the Unions. Oil 
had followed with hardly a fight, 
and as the Unions began to feel 
their oats, the changes grew more 
radical. 

Walter Towne remembered those 
stormy days well. The gradual un- 

106 



dercutting of the managerial sala- 
ries, the tightening up of inter- 
Union collusion to establish the in- 
famous Whitelist of Recalcitrant 
Managers. The shift from hourly 
wage to annual salary for the fao 
tory workers, and the change to the 
other pole for the managerial staff. 
And then, with creeping malig- 
nancy, the hungry howling of the 
Union Bosses for more and higher 
dividends, year after year, moving 
steadily toward the inevitable crisis. 

Until Shop Steward Bailey sud- 
denly found himself in charge of a 
dozen sputtering machines and an 
empty office. 

Torkleson was waiting to see him 
when he came in next morning. 
The Union Boss’s office was 
crowded with TV cameras, news- 
men, and puzzled workmen. The 
floor was littered with piles of 
ominous-looking paper. Torkleson 
was shouting into a telephone, and 
three lawyers were shouting into 
Torkleson’s ear. He spotted Bailey, 
waving him through the crowd into 
an inner office room. “Well? Did 
they get them fixed?” 

Bailey spread his hands nervous- 
ly. “The electronics boys have been 
at it since yesterday afternoon. 
Practically had the machines apart 
on the floor.” 

“I know that, stupid,” Torkleson 
roared. “I ordered ffiem there. Did 
they get the machines fixed?^^ 

“Uh — ^well, no, as a matter of 
fact—” 

“Well, whafs holding them up?^- 

Bailey’s face was a study in 
misery. “The machines just go in 
circles. The circuits are locked. 



ALAN E. NOURSE 




They just reverberate.” 

“Then call American Electronics. 
Have them send down an expert 
crew — ” 

Bailey shook his head. “They 
won’t come.” 

“They what^ 

“They said thanks but no thanks. 
They don’t want their fingers in this 
pie at all.” 

“Wait until I get O’Gilvy on the 
phone — ” 

“It won’t do any good, sir. 
They’ve got their own management 
troubles. They’re scared silly of a 
sympathy strike.” 

The door bmst open, amd a law* 
yer stuck his head in. “What about 
those injunctions, Dan?” 

“Get them moving,” TcMkleson 
howled. “They’ll start those ma- 
chines again, or I’ll have them in 
jail so fast — ” He turned back to 
Bailey. “What about the produc- 
tion lines?” 

The Shop Steward’s face lighted. 
“They slipped up, there. There was 
one program that hadn’t been 
coded into the machines yet. Just a 
minor item, but it’s a starter. We 
foimd it in Towne’s desk, blue- 
prints all ready, promotion ail 
planned.” 

“Good, good,” Torkleson 
breathed. “I have a Director’s 
meeting right now — have to get the 
workers quieted down a little bit. 
You put the program through, and 
give those electronics men three 
more hours to unsnarl this knot, or 
we throw them out of the Union.” 
He started for the door. “What 
were the blueprints for?” 

“Trash-cans,” said Bailey. “Pure 
titanium-steel trash-cans.” 



I T TOOK Robling Titanium ap- 
proximately two days to convert 
its entire production line to titani- 
um-steel trash-cans. With the total 
resources of the giant plant behind 
the effort, production was pheno- 
menal. In two more days the avail- 
able markets were glutted. By two 
weeks, at conservative estimate, 
there would be a titanium-steel 
trash-can for every man, woman, 
child, and hound dog on the North 
American Continent. The jet en- 
gines, structural steels, tubing, and 
other pre-strike products piled up in 
the freight yards, their routing slips 
and order requisitions tied up in the 
reverberating machines. 

But the machines continued to 
buzz and sputter. 

The workers grew restive. From 
the first day, Towne and Hendricks 
and all the others had been picket- 
ting the plant, until angry crowds 
of workers had driven them off with 
shotguns. Then they came back in 
an old, weatherbeaten ’copter 
which hovered over the plant en- 
trance carrying a banner with a 
plaintive message: ROBLING TI- 
TANIUM UNFAIR TO MAN- 
AGEMENT. Tomatoes were 
hurled, fists were shaken — ^but the 
copter remained — 

The third day, Jeff Bates was 
served with an injunction ordering 
Towne to return to work. It was 
duly appealed, legal machinery be- 
gan tying itself into knots, and the 
strikers still struck. By the fifth day 
there was a more serious note. 

“You’re going to have to appear, 
Walter. We can’t dodge this one.” 
“When?” 



MEETING OF THE BOARD 



107 




“Tomorrow morning. And before 
a labor-rigged judge, too.” The 
little lawyer paced his oflBce nerv- 
ously. “I don’t like it. Torkleson’s 
getting desperate. Workers putting 
pressure on him — ” 

Walter grinned. “Then Pendle- 
ton is doing a good job of selling.” 
“But you haven’t got time/^ the 
lawyer wailed. “They’ll have you in 
jail if you don’t start the machines 
again. They may have you in jail 
if you do start them, too, but that’s 
another bridge. Right now they 
want those machines going again.” 
^ “We’ll see,” said Walter. “What 
time tomorrow?” 

“Ten o’clock.” Bates looked up. 
“And don’t try to skip. You be 
there — ^because I don’t know what 
to tell them.” 

Walter was there, a half hour 
early. Torkleson’s legal staff glow- 
ered from across the room. The 
judge glowered from the bench. 
Walter closed his eyes with a little 
smile as the charges were read. “ — 
breach of contract, malicious mis- 
chief, sabotage of the company’s 
machines, conspiring to destroy the 
livelihood of ten thousand workers 
— ^Your Honor, we are preparing 
briefs to further prove that these 
men have formed a conspiracy to 
undermine the economy of the en- 
tire nation. We appeal to the spirit 
of orderly justice — ” 

Walter yawned as the words went 
on. “Of course, if the defendant 
will waive his appeals against the 
previous injunctions, and will re- 
lease the machines that were sabo- 
taged, we will be happy to formally 
withdraw these charges — ” 

There was a rustle of sound 

108 



through the courtroom. His Honor 
turned to Jeff Bates. “Are you con- 
sel for the defendant?” 

“Yes, sir.” Bates mopped his bald 
scalp. “The defendant pleads guilty 
to ail counts.” 

The Union lawyer dropped his 
glasses' on the table with a crash. 
The judge stared. “Mr. Bates, if 
you plead guilty, you leave me no 
alternative — 

“ — ^but to send me to jail,” said 
Walter Towne. “Go ahead. Send 
me to jail. In fact, I insist upon go- 
ing to jail — ” 

The Union lawyer’s jaw sagged. 
There was a hurried conference. 
A recess was pleaded. Telephones 
buzzed. Then: “Your honor, the 
plaintiff desires to withdraw all 
charges at this time.” 

“Objection,” Bates exclaimed. 
“We’ve already pleaded.” 

“ — ^feel sure that a settlement can 
be affected out of court — ” 

The case was thrown out on its 
ear. 

And still the machines sputtered. 



B ack at the plant rumor had 
it that the machines were per- 
manently gutted, and that the plant 
could never go back into produc- 
tion. Conflicting scuttlebutt sug- 
gested that persons high in Union- 
dom had perpetrated the crisis 
deliberately, bullying Management 
into the strike for the sole purpose 
of cutting current dividends and 
selling stock to themselves cheaply. 
The rumors grew easier and easier 
to believe. The workers came to 
the plants in business suits, it was 
true, and loimged in the finest of 

ALAN E. NOURSE 




lounges, and read the Wall Street 
Journal, and felt like Stockholders. 
But to face facts, their salaries were 
not the highest. Deduct Union dues, 
pension fees, medical insiu‘ance 
fees, and sundry other little items 
which had formerly been paid by 
well-to-do managements, and very 
little was left but the semi-annual 
dividend checks. And now the 
dividends were tottering — 

Production lines slowed. There 
were daily brawls on the plant 
floor, in the lounge and locker 
rooms. Workers began joking about 
the trash-cans ; then the humor 
grew more and more remote. Final- 
ly, late in the afternoon of the 
eighth day, Bailey was once again in 
Torkleson’s office. 

“Well? Speak up! What’s the 
beef this time?” 

“Sir — the men — I mean, there’s 
been some nasty talk — ^they’re tired 
of making trash-cans. No challenge 
in it. Anyway, the stock room is 
full, and the freight yard is full, and 
the last run of orders we sent out 
came back because they don’t want 
any more.” Bailey shook his head. 
“The men won’t swallow it any 
more. There’s — well, there’s been 
talk about having a Board Meet- 
mg. 

Torkleson’s ruddy cheeks paled. 
“Board meeting, huh?” He licked 
his heavy lips. “Now look, Bailey — 
we’ve always worked well together. 
I consider you a good friend of 
mine. You’ve got to get things 
under control. Tell the men we’re 
making progress. Tell them man- 
agement is beginning to buckle 
from its originad stand. Tell them 
we expect to have the strike broken 

MEETING OF THE BOARD 



in another few hours. Tell them 
anything — ” 

He waited until Bailey was gone. 
Then, with a trembling hand he 
lifted the visiphone receiver. “Get 
me Walter Towne,” he said. 

“I’m not an unreasonable man,” 
Torkleson was saying miserably, 
waving his fat paws in the air as 
he paced back and forth. “Perhaps 
we were a little demanding — I con- 
cede it! Overenthusiastic with our 
ownership, and all that. But I’m 
sure we can come to some agree- 
ment. A hike in wage scale is cer- 
tainly within reason. Perhaps we 
can even arrange for better com- 
pany houses — ” 

Walter Towne stifled a yawn. 
“Perhaps you didn’t hear me. The 
men are agitating for a meeting of 
the Board of Directors. I want to be 
at that meeting. That’s the only 
term I’m interested, in.” 

“But there wasn’t anything about 
a Board meeting in the contract 
your lawyer presented — ” 

“Well, you didn’t like that con- 
tract. So we tore it up. Anyway, 
we’ve changed our minds.” 

Torkleson sat down, his heavy 
cheeks quivering. “Gentlemen, be 
reasonable! I can guarantee you 
your jobs — even give you a free 
hand with the management. So the 
dividends won’t be so nice — the 
men will have to get used to that. 
That’s it, we’ll put it through at 
the next executive conference, give 
you — ” 

“The Board meeting,” Walter 
said gently. “That’ll be enough for 
us — ” 

The Union Boss swore and 

109 




slammed his 5st on the desk. "Walk 
out in front of those men — after 
what you’ve done? You’re fools! 
Well, I’ve given you your chance. 
You’ll get your Board meeting. But 
you’d better come armed. Because 
I know how to handle this kind of 
a Board meeting — and if I have 
anything to say about it, this one 
will end with a massacre.” 



T he meeting was held in a 

huge auditorium in the Robling 
administration building. Since 
every member of the Union owned 
stock in the company, every mem- 
ber had the right to vote for mem- 
bers of the Board of Directors. But 
in the early days of the Switchover, 
the idea of a Board of Directors 
smacked too strongly of the old 
system of corporate organization to 
suit the men. The solution had been 
simple, if a trifle ungainly. Every- 
one who owned stock in Robling 
Titanium was automatically a 
member of the Board of Directors, 
with Torkleson as chairman of the 
Board. The stockholders numbered 
over teii thousand . . . 

They were all present. They were 
packed in from the wall to the 
stage, and hanging from the rafters. 
They overflowed into the corridors; 
they jammed the lobby. Ten thou- 
sand men rose with a howl of anger 
when Walter Towne walked out on 
the stage. But they quieted down 
again as Dan Torkleson started to 
speak. 

It was a masterful display of 
rabble-rousing. Torkleson paced the 
stage, his fat body shaking with 
agitation, pointing a chubby finger 

no 



again and again at Walter Towne. 
He pranced and he ranted. He 
paused at just the right times for 
thunderous peals of applause. "This 
morning in my office we offered to 
compromise with these jackals,” he 
cried, "and they rejected compro- 
mise. Even at the cost of lowering 
dividends, of taking food from the 
mouths of your wives and children, 
we made our generous offers. They 
were rejected with scorn. These 
thieves have one desire in mind, my 
friends — to starve you all, to a man ; 
to destroy your company and your 
jobs. To every appeal they heart- 
lessly refused to divulge the key to 
the lock-in. And now this man — 
the ringleader who keeps the key 
word buried in secrecy — ^has the 
temerity to ask an audience with 
you. You’re angry men; you want 
to know the man to blame for our 
hardship.” He pointed to Towne 
with a flourish. "I give you your 
man. Do what you want with him.” 

The hall exploded in angry thun- 
der. The first wave of men rushed 
onto the stage as Walter stood up. A 
tomato whizzed past his ear and 
splattered against the wall. More 
men clambered up on the stage, 
shouting and shaking their fists. 

Then somebody appeared with a 
rope. 

Walter gave a sharp nod to the 
side of the stage. Abruptly the roar 
of the men was drowned in another 
sound — a soul-rending, teeth-grat- 
ing, bone-rattling screech. The men 
froze, jaws sagging, eyes wide, hard- 
ly believing their ears. And then, in 
the instant of silence as the factory 
whistle died away, Walter grabbed 
the microphone. "You want the 

ALAN E. NOURSE 




code word to start die machines 
again? Til give it to you before I 
sit down!” 

The men stared at him, shuffling, 
a murmur rising. Torkleson burst to 
his feet. “It’s a trick!” he howled. 
“Wait ’til you hear their price — 

“We have no price, and no de- 
mands,” said Walter Towne. “We 
will give you the code word, and we 
ask nothing in return but that you 
listen for sixty seconds.” He glanced 
back at Torkleson, and then out to 
the crowd. “You men here are an 
electing body — right? You own this 
great plant and company, top to 
bottom — right? You should all he 
rich — ^because Robling could make 
you rich. But none of you out there 
is rich. Only the fat ones on this 
stage are — but I’ll tell you how 
you can be rich — ” 

They listened, then. Not a peep 
came from the huge hall. Suddenly, 
he was talking their language. 

“You think that since you own 
the Company, times have changed. 
Well, have they? Are you any better 
off than you were? Of course not. 
Because you haven’t learned yet 
that oppression by either side leads 
to misery for both. You haven’t 
learned moderation. And you never 
will, until you throw out the ones 
who have fought moderation right 
down to the last ditch. You know 
who I mean. You know who’s 
grown richer and richer since the 
Switchover. Throw him out, and 



you too can be rich — ” He paused 
for a deep breath. “You want the 
code word to unlock the machines? 
All right. I’ll give it to you.” 

He swung around to point a long 
fingter at the fat man sitting there. 
“1^ code word is TORKLE- 
SON—” 



M uch later, as Waiter 

Towne and Jeff Bates pryed 
the trophies off the wall of the big 
office, the lawyer shook his head 
sadly. “Pity about Dan. Gruesome 
affair.” 

Walter nodded as he struggled 
down with a moose-head. “Yes, a 
pity — ^but you know the boys when 
they get upset.” 

“I suppose so.” The lawyer 
stopped to rest, panting. “Anyway, 
with the newly-elected Board of 
Directors, things will be different 
for everybody. You took a long 
gamble.” 

“Not so long. Not when you knew 
what they wanted to hear. It just 
took a little timing.” 

“Still— I didn’t think they’d 
elect you Secretary of the Union. It 
just doesn’t figure — ” 

Walter Towne chuckled. 
“Doesn’t it? I don’t know. Every- 
thing’s been a little screwy since the 
Switchover came. And in a screwy 
world like this — He shrugged, and 
tossed down the moose-head. 
thing figures.” # • • 



We have hardly begun to understand and conquer the universe. Discov- 
eries of the future will make the discoveries of our time seem despicable 
and superficial. — James Sumner 

MEETING OF THE BOARD 



111 




what Is Your Science I. Q.? 

THIS QUIZ isn’t so tough as the last two. Count 5 for each 

correct answer, and you are very good if you can hit a score of 

80. The correct answers are on page 119. 

1. The period of nineteen years after which the new moon and 

the full moon fall on the same days of the year again is called 
the cycle. 

2. Which of the following isn’t a star, and what is it? Procyon, 
Mizar, Spica, Regulus and Ganymede. 

3. Radio and waves travel at the same speed. 

4. What is the name given to an especially bright meteor or fire- 
ball? 

5. An escape velocity of miles per hour is necessary 

for a ship to leave the Earth’s atmosphere. 

6. How many years pass in the cycle of Encke’s comet? 

7. The Heaviside Layer is another name for the Earth’s 

8. In which constellation can the star Vega be found? 

9. The regular spacing of the planets was the basis for the hy- 
pothesis contained in Law. 

10. Nereid is one of the moons of Neptune. Can you name the 
other? 

11. A first-magnitude star is times brighter than a 

sixth-magnitude star. 

12. What is the name of the comet which has a period of two 
thousand years? 

13. Which of the planets rotates most rapidly? 

14. Aeroembolism is due to the formation of bubbles 

in the blood and spinal fluid brought about by rapid ascent 
into high altitudes. 

15. The largest number of asteroids lie in the area between Jupiter 
and what other planet. 

16. The planet which requires eighty-four Earth years for one 

circuit of the sun is 

17. Deutrons are the nuclei of which element? 

18. The technical term for the ultimate “heat death” of the 

universe is “maximum ” 

19. Mach numbe one is equal to how many per hour? 

20. What is the chief constituent of the atmosphere of the moon 
Titan? 





A new rocket designed to carry 150 
pounds of scientific instruments 180 
miles into the air at one shot was 
recently revealed. The 180 mile al- 
titude is expected to set a record 
high for a single stage rocket. Called 
Aerobee-Hi rockets, they will be 
pressure sealed so £hat samples of 
air taken high in the atmosphere 
will not be contaminated by gases 
leaking out of the rocket. Such 
leakage has spoiled all measure- 
ments of this kind from Viking 
rockets, since they were literally fly- 
ing in an envelope of their own 
gases. Most promising development 
in rocketry so far, cost of the Aero- 
bee-Hi is only one-tenth that of a 
Viking. 



allow control where poisonous in- 
secticides could not be used. Seeing 
this growth-inhibiting method as a 
weapon of the future, the research- 
ers have found that chemicals such 
as colchicine prevent cell division, 
and others slow down insect metab- 
olism. In one test alone, DDT-re- 
sistant flies were more affected than 
normal ones. Only three percent of 
the resistant-flies reached normal 
adulthood. 

Every camera in the nation is a po- 
tential radiation detector when 
equipped with a new device which 
can convert them without interfer- 
ing with their normal function. The 
detector employs a photosensitive 
sheet which will record a light spot 
on a black background when sub- 
jected to X-ray or gamma radia- 
tions. In operation, short-wave elec- 
tromagnetic radiations pass through 
an intensifier which emits a fluores- 
cent light that causes the light spot. 
The radiation-caused light is read- 
ily distinguished from normal film 
fogging or from that caused by 
light leaks. 



A new concept of insect control, 
keeping insects from growing up, is 
being evolved by scientists in the 
U.S. Department of Agriculture. It 
promises fewer house-flies and safer 
foods. Using chemicals, the aim of 
the new idea is to keep insect pests 
from ever becoming adults and lay- 
ing eggs rather than killing them 
outright. Preliminary tests indicate 
that these chemicals can be used 
effectively against DDT-resistant 
flies. In addition, they are “non- 
toxic” to humans and animals and 



Troops will be better equipped for 
desert warfare of the future because 
of an eighteen month research proj- 
ect recently concluded by geogra- 
phers. The work was done in the 
Mojave Desert and included learn- 
ing everything possible about the 
climate, vegetation and topography 
of a typical desert. To gather round- 
the-clock weather data, 14 small 
weather stations were erected at 
various elevations. For ten blistering 
days one man lived alone at the 
summit of the moimtains to gather 



113 




such data, ^ome facts uncovered 
were: desert mountain summits are 
warmer than desert floors on winter 
nights; siunmertime humidity is 
higher than winter humidity; and 
dark colored basaltic rock is 30 de- 
grees hotter in summer than light 
hued granite. 

Commercial heliports which may 
someday spring up in every city in 
the country will probably be on the 
ground and smaller than a city 
block. Such a field will measure 
about 200 by 400 feet. Except for 
parking room, most of the area will 
be set aside for emergency landing 
space. The ideal heliport will have 
a wide unobstructed street-level ap- 
proach, and stationing the field near 
railroad yards, parks, ponds, water- 
ways, or widely divided highways 
would permit this ease of approach. 
Suburban heliports of the future 
will probably be found near park- 
ing lots, filling stations, post offices, 
resorts or large factories. Since 89% 
of all intercity traffic is for distances 
of less than 250 miles per trip, such 
a network of heliports would be the 
ideal traffic solution. The U.S. has 
only one such port in operation and 
is far behind Europe, where seven 
already exist, with an eighth under 
construction in Paris. 

A method of decoying fish to swim 
where one wants them to by using 
artificial odors was recently intro- 
duced, and someday such fish as 
salmon may be induced to retiun to 
a designated spawning area by use 
of such imderwater perfume. The 
decoying operation employs the 
theory ^t animals and whose 

lU 



migratory habits depend on their 
sense of smell, can be reared to re- 
turn to a specific area impregnated 
with a false scent. One method of 
diverting salmon from their home 
spawning grounds would be to uti- 
lize odors to which salmon are par- 
ticularly sensitive. A group of fry 
could be conditioned to such an 
artificial odor during hatchery rear- 
ing, and remembering the odor, 
could several years later be re- 
oriented from their natural unde- 
sirable spawning groimds to another 
location downstream; thus avoiding 
problems of water pollution, power 
dams and the diversion of waters by 
irrigation. In addition to helping 
the fish return home safely, decoy- 
ing fish may be valuable in getting 
them away from given areas where 
they are interfering with sonar con- 
tact between a ship and an under- 
water target. 

More accurate spotting of brain 
tumors by radioactive arsenic is now 
possible with an improvement in 
the detecting method. Radioactive 
arsenic is injected into the patient’s 
veins in amounts so small that it 
cannot poison the patient; he then 
lies down for one hom* while twin 
scintillation counters move back 
and forth scanning the head line by 
line. Arsenic concentrates in brain 
tumors and the machine outlines 
these areas. This new sensitive ma- 
chine will increase the accuracy of 
the procedure from the 80% of the 
older method to 90 to 95%. 

If a nuclear war is ever fought, chil- 
dren would do well to get and keep 
an accurate record of how far they 

SCIENCE BRIEFS 




were from ground zero at the time, 
and of how much radiation fall-out 
struck them. Genetic mutations may 
be recessive traits, in which case 
the damage would not show unless 
two persons carrying the genes mar- 
ried. Then the children would show 
the effects of the radiation damage 
to their parents* genes. To get a 
marriage license in the future, a 
couple might have to produce rec- 
ords showing that at least one of 
them could not have been previous- 
ly exposed to a potentially gene- 
damaging amount of radiation, just 
as their parents had to show a nega- 
tive blood test for syphilis. 

The atomic powered car is not yet 
at hand, but an atomically pro- 
cessed fuel for your present car is 
in the works. Standard Oil recently 
gave a preview of its new experi- 
mental project for using atomic 
energy in the production of new 
petroleum products. Whether atom- 
ic radiation mixed with oil will 
provide a new super-gasoline or a 
way of making gasoline cheaper are 
two of the things the company 
hopes to determine. Preliminary ex- 
periments have shown that gamma 
rays produced by a cobalt pipe 
cause chemical reactions with pe- 
troleum products heretofore beyond 
the reach of science. The atomic 
generated gamma rays have also 
indicated that they may open ways 
to the production of gasoline with- 
out the use of heat, pressure or 
catalysts. 

Energy from the sun and the atom, 
may someday convert salt water 
into fresh water. Looking into the 

SCIENCE BRIEFS 



future, scientists have tried several 
new methods. One distills salt water 
by rapid-boiling it in a vacuum, 
-pother is electro-ion migration, 
likened to electroplating. In this 
process, molecular fragments of the 
dissolved salts are electrically ex- 
tracted through thin membranes. 
The OTix of realistic accomplish- 
ment in demineralization of saline 
water seems to be the prohibitive 
cost. More inexpensive power is 
needed. Nuclear reactors, low grade 
fuel or solar stills, which harness the 
sun’s power, seem to be the only 
possible answers to an urgent prob- 
lem in arid and semi-arid areas 
covering a third of the Earth’s land 
surface. 

Hundreds of thousands of simul- 
taneous telephone conversations 
may soon be crammed into a single 
two-inch pipe and transmitted long 
distances on wave frequencies high- 
er than any ever used in communi- 
cation before. The capacity of the 
new circular wave-guide exceeds 
that of the most modem coaxial 
cable, which can handle only 7,400 
two way calls at a time. The fre- 
quencies of the microwaves used in 
the new method range from 35,000 
to 75,000 megacycles. In addition, 
the number of different frequencies 
this tubing can carry is so huge that 
all conventional transmission wave- 
lengths of all media could be fitted 
into its spread with ease. Tiny su- 
per-high frequency waves that move 
through the new pipe have been 
found to aid the efficiency of the 
transmission, and the loss of energy 
is so small that boosters would only 
be necessary every 25 miles. 



115 




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Sir: 

Tm rather fed-up with the idea 
of time travel and telepathy as por- 
trayed in S-F. In my opinion they 
are scientific absurdities. 

Consider the energy required for 
a person to travel back in time to 
say, 6 months ago. The whole of 
creation must then be returned to 
that date. Planets would have to be 
reversed in their courses, people 
would have to be shifted perhaps 
thousands of miles in order that 
they could occupy the same places 
they had 6 months before. Matter 
which was present on that person, 
but since had been lost, must be re- 
turned to him from various dis- 
tances ... and so violently as to 
kill him instantly. The energy re- 
quired for all this is so great, that 
on this count alone time travel is a 
scientific absurdity. 

The contention that in time trav- 



el everything is continuously ex- 
tended both forwards and back- 
wards in time is merely uncontrolled 
speculation having no facts to sup- 
port it which are amenable to veri- 
fying tests, and therefore must be 
ruled mathematical fantasy. Even 
if this was true, my argument on 
energy is not weakened for it is in- 
conceivable that the time scale of 
a minute part of the whole of crea- 
tion could be altered so as to ac- 
celerate that part into the future or 
into the past without the remainder 
of creation being similarly affected. 
A considerable factor of uncertainty 
would be introduced which would 
make nonsense of all history and 
even of individual memories. Day 
by day predictions of the motion of 
planets would be rendered unreli- 
able to say the least. 

Telepathy is also being mangled. 
True telepathy is a transmission of 
feelings and nothing more. Alarm, 
fear, hate, anger, pity, love, amuse- 
ment . . . these are emotional re- 
sponses that can be “sent.” Words 
or pictures are not transmitted. The 
scientific mind cannot admit telep- 
athy until what passes between 
two people can be identified. We 
know the brain produces electric 
currents and the possibility that 
these may affect another must be 
conceded but in cases where we are 
asked to believe exchanges of com- 
plex verbal and pictorial telepathy 
there is a lack of explaining factors 
to substantiate it. What passes can- 
not be matter or energy because 
they cannot be produced by some- 
thing which is abstract, and they 
are the only means of communica- 
tion that we know. It is also in- 



117 




conceivable a telepath can de- 
tect simultaiieoiisly in the brain of 
another a series of multiple brain- 
cell impulses of different strengths 
and with different routes in that 
brain. Only the impossible is ab- 
surd, and any sober scientific view 
must be that only emotional telep- 
athy is possible, all other forms 
being impossible. 

Cordially, 

G. W. Walton 

England 

Anyone care to take up the cudgel 
in defense of time^travel and telep^ 
athy? We'd be glad to offer part of 
the column for argument. 



Your new Masthead “Worlds Of 
Science Fiction” is much more eye- 
catching. 

Budrys’, THE STRANGERS 
was the best in the Jime issue. 

Glad to see the letter column is 
back in the form of “Hue And 
Cry.” Bring back “Personalities In 
Science Fiction.” It was a good 
feature. 

Sincerely, 

Alan Cheuse 
Perth Amboy, N. J. 

Thanks for the bouquet. We've got 
another excellent department com- 
ing up that will beat anything 
you've yet seen for news about 
personalities^ events, etc. 



Dear Mr. Quinn: 

IF has really been improving 
steadily and now compares with the 
best. 

STEPHEN'S 
Book Service 

125 FOURTH AVE. 

NEW YORK 3, N. Y. 

Phone GRomercy 3*5990 
We S^k All 

current Americon Science Fiction 
in Book Form and carry current 
Magazines and Pocket Books. 



Dear Mr. Quinn : 

I just picked up the June issue of 
IF to find out when the next issue 
will be out and . . . lo and behold! 
June 14th! What happened? How 
come IF has gone back to bi- 
monthly? I rate IF number one as 
a science fiction magazine and am 
puzzled over the return to bi- 
monthly form. I surely hope it’s 
nothing permanent. I couldn’t 
stand having my IF reading cut in 
half. Please let’s get IF back to a 
monthly. 

Sincerely yours, 
Charles F. Durang 
Libertyville, 111. 



A large selection of Science Fiction 
is avoiloble of British Books, Mogo- 
zines ond Pocket Editions. 



We corry a lorge stock of Bock 
Issues of Science Fiction 
Mogozines. 



CATALOGUES ISSUED 



You have our word for it. As soon 
as it seems at all feasible, we'll be 
back on the stands each and every 
month. 

Dear Mr. Quinn: 

I have been a science fiction fan 



118 




for several years now, and it no 
longer comes as a shock to be able 
to buy the June issue of IF in the 
middle of April. But it does make 
me wonder, as I read your SCI- 
ENCE BRIEFS, just where in Time 
I am. 

You predict for the future, bath- 
ing suits made of the new stretch 
yams. These are currently being ad- 
vertised by Cleveland’s larger, more 
progressive department stores. 

That doesn’t bother me so much 
because they are comparatively 
new. What does amaze me is your 
reference to supermarket doors 
that open as you approach them. 
Such things have been standard in 
and around Cleveland for a good 
number of years, and are taken for 
granted. So much so, that many 
people walk right into doors that 
are not the self-opening type, or 
those that are but aren’t working 
properly, without a thought of put- 
ting out a hand or foot to push the 
door open. 

If these things are in the future, 
and I am taking them for granted, 
I imagine that the big question is: 
am I in the future, or are you in 
the past, and if so, why? 

Confusingly yours, 
Mrs. Alan Kopperman 
Euclid, Ohio 



P.S. Don’t get mad, this is all in 
fun. I ran into an old-style 
door the other day and re- 
ferred to it as old-fashioned. 
Your magazine made me won- 
der. 

Cleveland hereby gets our nomina^- 
tion as the ‘^Cradle of the Future^*. 
Seriously, though we'll try not to be 
so ‘‘old-fashioned" in future issues. 

Dear Editors: 

CONGRATULATIONS! Two, 
count them, TWO lovely brand 
new ideas both nicely handled, are 
unusual to say the least, in the 
welter of stf-stufF we’ve been getting 
lately on all sides. “Franchise” by 
Azimov and “Mold of Yancy”, by 
Dick, were excellent. They make 
up for a lot of cliches that have 
been kicking around lately. Food 
for some pretty intense thinking 
too. If we aren’t careful, these 
things could happen to us . . . 
and I’ll bet we’d hardly know it 
imtil it was too late. 

Sincerely, 

G. M. Fox 
Portland, Oregon 

Thanks for backing up our own 
opinions. For more “thought-pro- 
vokers" look for the “Happy 
Clown" and “Message from Space" 
in our December issue. 



WHAT IS YOUR SCIENCE I.Q.? 

ANSWERS: 1 — Metonic. 2 — Ganymede is one of Jupiter’s moons. 
3 — Light. 4 — Bolide. 5 — 25,000. 6 — 3.3 years. 7 — Ionosphere. 
8 — Bootes. 9 — Bode’s. 10 — Triton. 11 — 100. 12 — Donati’s. 13 — 
Jupiter. 14 — ^Nitrogen. 15 — Mars. 16 — Uranus. 17 — Heavy hy- 
drogen. 18 — Entropy. 19 — 761. 20 — Methane. 



119 








WHAT SECRET POWER 
DID THEY POSSESS? 



Why were these men great? 

How does anyone — man or woman — achieve 
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within ourselves ? 

Know the mysterious world within you ! Attune 
yourself to the wisdom of the ages ! Grasp the 
inner power of your mind ! Learn the secrets of a 
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Benjamin Franklin, statesman and inventor. 
Isaac Newton, discoverer of the Law of Gravita- 
tion . . . Francis Bacon, philosopher and scientist 
. . . like many other learned and great men and 
women . . . were Rosicrucians. The Rosicrucians 
(NOT a religious organization) have been in 
existence for centuries. Today, headquarters of 
the Rosicrucians send over seven million pieces 
of mail annually to all parts of the world. 

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